Sometimes the skillful poet plays the alchemist, creating beauty from moments of pain and suffering. In her new collection The Face I Desire, Renuka Raghavan dons her poetic wizard’s robe and does exactly that, bringing to the task a razor-sharp eye for detail and a profound sympathy for the human condition that never veers into sentimentality. Into her glowing crucible go the moments of suffering to which she bears witness…and out comes gold.
— Charles Coe, author of Memento Mori
Mrs. Miller asked with bored eyes for us to pick a country.
Any country. Create a 3-d diorama.
India, not for my heritage,
because I remember when Daddy watched TV last night:
Breaking News: Earthquake hits Northern India.
Nearly 2,000 dead, more than 300,000
missing, injured, displaced.
I paper mâchéd a house inside an old shoebox
out of thick black construction paper,
somewhere along the foothills of the Himalayas,
with snow-capped peaks pasted for background.
The walls of the house shook,
floors torn apart, upturned furniture littered the inside,
like when Daddy used to play dollhouse
with me but his hand was too big to fit the tiny rooms.
You can’t tell anything is wrong, said Mrs. Miller,
the house looks like any other. But I knew.
I knew you have to walk to the yard out back,
so I showed her the gnarled swing set,
the plastic tricycle, going through
the bottom of the shoebox,
swallowed by earth,
the wooden sandbox blown asunder.
Aurora Borealis Reviews
a found poem
Lights didn’t put on a show, as promised
Too fucking cold, barely saw anything
Our tour guide was an idiot,
had us looking in the southern direction
for the Northern Lights
Buyers beware: You need clear skies
No one said seeing the Aurora was weather-dependent
Trip sucked, 0 stars (see what I did there?)
What a disgrace
It took nearly four hours
The most boring night of my life
Instead of looking for the Northern Lights,
we had to go looking for a lost passenger
from our tour bus
Save money and explore something else
Now I know why they call it
hunting for the Aurora Borealis
Honestly, y’all might have better luck
hunting for Bigfoot
No pictures, no lights, no refund
Just a green smudge. What’s the big deal?
Best night ever: no Aurora, but I swear I saw a UFO!
A Prayer for Mumtaz
In trepidatious script he penned a prayer
for his young Queen,
a reluctant widower, an absent father, a fallen ruler.
On the parchment the size of his palm, he added:
I stare at the pale moon face,
for she glows without inhibition,
and yet my heart remains dark.
It is your light I seek, it is your face I desire.
Between 1612 and 1631,
he remembered those days they lived in love,
picking wild flowers along the lush,
fertile banks of the Yamuna.
The Fisherman’s Tune
With no wind today on the Yamuna,
the water is too quiet and gray.
With no ripples or influx of movement,
all around the embankment, light floats in the air
over acres of smooth, rivering hematite.
An eager fisherman wants to break the solitude.
On a laborer’s high, with the possibility of feeding
his family tonight,
he heaves his nets into the water,
whistling “Greensleeves” into the mist.
The music raises light to the sky,
as if a giant hovering over the distant green glen,
crooning to the diminishing moon,
ushers in the proxigean spring tide.
A blind river dolphin breaks
the crystalline surface of the water,
leaping into the air, dancing to the fisherman’s tune.
When the Flames of the Pyre Die Out
We collect the
heaps of ash,
the dry, arid
stench of marrow
tattooed onto our
fighting with the
sweet aroma of
jasmine and peony,
grass and sandalwood.
Our canvas is
the calm river,
a gentle sway
invites us to
her banks on
this bright day.
A koel expels
his sharp cries,
then flies off
to find a
incantations invoke dead
spirits of our
past to come
and escort the
newest departed soul
The fragile staccato of
each spoken hymn
hushes into a
dull beat, a
soft cadence that
accompanies them to
a quiet place
beyond the blind,
eager reaches of
our longing sorrow.
Renuka Raghavan is the author of Out of the Blue (2017). Her poems and short fiction have been published in literary journals across the United States, with most recent work featured in Mom Egg Review and Gravel Literary Magazine. Renuka serves as the fiction book reviewer at Červená Barva Press, and is a poetry reader for Indolent Books and the Lily Poetry Review. She is also a co-founder of the Poetry Sisters Collective. Renuka writes and lives in Massachusetts with her family and beloved beagle.
Visit her at renukaraghavan.com
Copyright © 2019 Renuka Raghavan
Cover photograph by the author
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.
Pre-order The Face I Desire direct from Nixes Mate via PayPal
$10.00 + shipping, International orders add an additional $5.
through your local independent bookstore,
or on Amazon.