When personal is public
Recently widowed, she had been scourged with rods,
her young daughters raped.
Queen Boudica rose in rebellion against the ruling Romans,
uniting her warring tribes into an uneven whole,
spurring them through the ranks for war
against brutal injustice meted to her and her girls.
Eyes aflame with vengeance, her spear held high
she rode her chariot, women warriors too at her heels,
her horses whinnying, taut forelegs raised in fright.
Her sally into the mightiest empire then
dented its flanks enough to cause it grief
but not enough.
Her ragtag army routed in defeat, she took poison
to avoid what fate she knew full well would be hers.
Can personal revenge guide public responsibility?
Yet it served as seed for uniting the warring Iceni,
as warning against assaults on women and girls
that only a royal queen could attempt
by uniting her own subjects
with grim courage in life and
leaving a mark on the spilt blood of history.
A home is a conflict zone, a ticking time bomb.
Sometimes one can separate the det cord from the detonator,
defuse things through a favourite chair, a ripe mango, a holiday,
a prayer and some merciful thought elimination.
Long years of patience and endurance later, one takes a stand.
You remind yourself you are an educated woman, a professional too.
A masonry of inner conviction slowly builds, solid as a stone wall
against centuries of stone-walling suppression.
One speaks up…even if the voice squeaks like a rabbit’s or
is pitched high like a witch’s; tone controls are easier once the
walls are up, strong and high. Even a cool evening breeze helps.
Only when walls stand at home, can they stand elsewhere:
in a community where the stakes are lower or in a profession…higher.
What wall will crumble outside when there is one built
Walking out of the darkness the figure looks androgynous,
eyes turned to the dim light sloping in from the window.
She is a woman. Her eyes ignite, smouldering coals, piercing search.
She is alone, maybe out of choice. Maybe no one cares to
follow her through so much dark.
I understand now the magnificence of her search…
trying to find me, the magnitude of her courage.
To look for the lost, so the lost feels found,
loses loneliness, no…… isolation.
Perhaps she had no choice but to come alone,
needed to lose her aloneness by finding the lost,
by shining her coal eyes on the museum of the past,
by screening the dead from the alive,
the lost from his losses
the eagle from the sky.
Neera Kashyap had a career in social & health communications. She has authored a book for young adults, Daring to Dream, (Rupa & Co.) and contributed to five prize-winning anthologies for children. As a writer of short fiction, poetry, book reviews and essays, her work has appeared in several international literary journals and poetry anthologies. The literary journals for poetry include Verse Virtual, Life & Legends, Failed Haiku & Setu Magazine (USA); RIC Journal (Indo-French); The Punch Magazine, Teesta Review, The Wise Owl journal (India) among others. She lives in Delhi.