No. 6


Usha Kishore  


(After reading N. Anne Highland Tiley’s “Presence”)

The voice of the sky speaks again —
It is the voice of thunder, 
flaming lightning…
It is the voice of wisdom, 
melting on rainbow…

My pilgrimage has brought me to this Tirtha
on the Irish Sea, where one man became a 
glorious god — before me the sky meets
the sea in vast eternity; 
To the thirty-three million gods in
my memory, I add one more—
I follow the voice of the sky…

I read the sky as it flows in the blue water,
I read the sky as it falls on the stones,
I read the sky as it peers from the trees,
I read the sky as it twinkles from the stars…

In the roaring winds, Shiva’s anklets shake
their bells; Kali dances on the fury of 
thunder; from the mists, Krishna’s flute 
beckons me and Ganesh patiently waits at 
the water’s edge, throwing stones at the 
dancing waves…

I scour the cliffs and cross the streams;
My life is made up of many streams
and chalky cliffs — some cosmic geometry —
Hundreds of stone eyes stare down at me;
I am no native, as old as the Manx hills; 
I am a come-over, who just stayed on — 
With me, I carry thirty-three million gods
in the casket of memory and one more—
Only one voice speaks to me: 
It is the voice of the sky…

The voice of the sky speaks to me 
in the red light of the dying day;
The voice of the sky speaks to me
from the soft bloom of clouds;
The voice of the sky speaks to me
in the romance of dusky twilight;
The voice of the sky invades 
my body, my mind, my spirit … 
I see it, I smell it, I hear it, I taste it, 
I feel it — the voice of the sky 
penetrates my consciousness—

There are no temples here — 
only high churches that ring 
out the old and ring in the new.  
My feet touch the footprints of a 
myriad travellers, who passed this way —
Strange fears invade me,
I am a pagan in a Christian land. 
My hues are dusky, my notes are strange;
But the voice of the sky soothes me,
The voice of the sky guides me…

I circle the island — the pradakshina padha,
carved in stone, ornamented with purple
heather, anointed with the waters of the 
Irish Sea — On a windblown hilltop, 
I build a temple in verse: the torana,
with dwarapalas breathing fire, demi-gods
wrenched out of dwindling memory;
The spires of my temple towers touch 
the voice of the sky —  

A fair magician, with golden hair, hands me 
his cloak and wand to perform my yagna;
I build the garbha griha — my inner temple —
Stealing mantras from the past, I install 
my Gods, in their new avatars:
In the East — I plant the patient elephant boy;
In the West — the dark God, playing his flute;
In the South — the dancing God, who wears the sky;
In the North — that Black woman, with lolling tongue.
Other impatient gods fly out in a flurry 
of autumn leaves and  paint the air in gold —
All around me, serpents throw lights from their
jewelled hoods; mermaids anoint my idols;
apsaras dance and fairies sing in strange notes…

My words are incense,
My rhymes are flowers,
My rhythms are sweetmeats,
My images flow out in colour,
My syllables burn in camphor —

I worship on air 
I worship in wind
I worship on earth
I worship in water
I worship in fire…

The voice of the sky bears witness
to my worship; my hands fold in
prayer — tears flow out of my
shut eyes — flames burn in me — 
fireworks illumine the sky;
Today is the punarprathista
All around me is an utsav —
The voice of the sky is my veda
it is the voice that follows time;
it is the voice that penetrates space —
it is the voice of dark eternity…


In the Hindu Pantheon, Shiva (dancing God) is one of the Trinity, Kali (Black woman) is the Hindu goddess of destruction, Krishna (Flute-player) is an avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu, another member of the Trinity and Ganesh is the Elephant God.
Tirtha — place of pilgrimage
Manx — as in the Isle of Man.  Manannan Mac Lir is the Celtic God of the Isle of Man.  Manannan is also considered a magician.
The Hindu temple is based on classical Indian architecture: the torana (the entrance), the pradakshina padha (the circular space around the temple) and the garbha-griha (the inner sanctum).
Yagna — sacrifice/rite
Mantra — chant
Apsaras — heavenly nymphs
Punarprathista — reinstallation
Utsav — festival
Veda — Hindu scripture




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