Goddess Durga

And last, but not least, our final (optional) prompt! In some past years, I’ve challenged you to write a poem of farewell for our thirtieth day, but this year, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem about something that returns.

At the end of monsoon
on the cusp of autumn
when the last homage is being paid to the ancestors
from the lofty Himalayas she descends
to make earth her abode for nine nights
hail all! The beauteous one
as she comes once again
to bless our lives with her presence
the idols are decorated and the stage set
the invocations and the incantations begin
as everyone gets ready to welcome the righteous one
who slayed the demon to save her devotees
they now throng the pandals to sing her glories
her sojourn on earth is marked with festivities
choicest of foods, dance and drama
she partakes in it all in her regal glory
and then on the tenth day it is time to say farewell
there are tears as well as smiles
when her clay idol is immersed on the tenth day
she departs with the promise of her visit again.

(Durga puja is believed to commemorate Durga’s visit to her natal home with her children. The festival is preceded by Mahalaya, which is believed to mark the start of Durga’s journey to her natal home. Primary celebrations begin on the sixth day, on which the goddess is welcomed with rituals. The festival ends on the tenth day (Vijaya dashami), when devotees embark on a procession carrying the worshipped clay sculpture-idols to a river, or other water body, and immerse them, symbolic of her return to the divine cosmos and her marital home with Shiva in Kailash. She returns next year again.)

Jackie, the king!

And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). Today, I challenge you to write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. Sing high your praises and tell the tale of Kitty McFluffleface’s ascension of Mt. Couch. Let us hear how your intrepid doggo bravely answers the call to adventure whenever the leash jingles.

He was the king of all he haughtily surveyed
ensconced in his drool covered and gnawed-handle favourite chair
he looked saintly with his tawny forehead bearing a white tuft in the centre
just like a tilak* on holy men’s forehead
his bark was ferocious,
in actuality he was a lamb, following mum everywhere
one click of tongue by dad
and he would stand ramrod still
frolicking with us in the mud
splattering water all over during bath time
the steady thump of his tail
when we returned from school
and his chocolate gaze begging for treats
had made us all his willing, fawning subjects
thus when he abdicated his throne
dogarchy retired forever from our home.

*tilak : a mark worn by a Hindu on the forehead to indicate caste, status, or sect, or as an ornament.

Yayy! This poem is the featured poem for this prompt. You can read about it here.

Temporary abode

Today’s (optional) prompt is brought to us by the Emily Dickinson Museum. First, read this brief reminiscence of Emily Dickinson, written by her niece. And now, here is the prompt that the museum suggests:

Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s description of her aunt’s cozy room, scented with hyacinths and a crackling stove, warmly recalls the setting decades later. Describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem. It could be your childhood room, your grandmother’s room, a college dormitory or another significant space from your life.

(Long forgotten memories come rushing with a whoosh taking me back in time to this very day, a fortnight spent in a temporary home at dad’s worksite.)

A whitewashed frame of brick and mortar

with a tin head atop

no beds, no dining table and chairs

just basic amenities to get by

one room for us siblings

I can still smell the sandalwood incense

mom would light, to keep the insects at bay

mattresses on the floor, covered with coarse cotton sheets,

were our four poster bed

from the ceiling fan hung the mosquito net

turning our sleeping alcove into a fortress

where many a wars were fought

temporary sheer curtains made

from mom’s old blue net saree

fluttered prettily in the windows

a world map on one bare wall

would keeps us on our toes

for every evening after dinner

dad would love to flummox us with geography quiz

sometimes over a glass of whisky he would relate

entertaining anecdotes shared by a German coworker

during the day it was our wrestling arena

also a place of verbal duels,

a haven from the heat outside

where we would venture in search of frogs and chameleons

a cosy nook to retire after the evening spree of cycling

every night the mango tree outside

rustled in the breeze playing a symphony

with the hot tin roof

that would keep us awake for a while

some nights, when the power would go off

we would read under the sheets

with torches under our chins

when it got too hot, the sheets were sprinkled with water

to keep us cool and the heat bearable

watching fireflies from the window

was our favourite night time activity

we didn’t have much then but were happy

today kids have everything yet…

Favourite

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed.

It was love at first sight for me

though you have never said it

I think it was the same for you

we fitted seamlessly, as if made for each other

in our early days we would be

entwined together all the time

my friends looked at us with envy

but admitted we were a match made in heaven

you were upright yet flexible

giving me room to be myself

but the moment you felt I was overstepping

you cut me no slack

honestly, I didn’t resent it

I need someone to keep a check on me

though when you held on to my waist,

a bit possessively in a cinch

I did feel uncomfortable

my love for you has deepened over the years

you may not have the same youthful looks

and may look weathered a bit

that’s what makes you look distinguished

when we step out together

I have seen young girls eye you

and believe me, I feel a surge of pride

I promise you, my favourite pair of jeans

I will never part with you.

Longing

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). This is one that we’ve used before, but one test of a good prompt is that you can come back to it! For this prompt, you will need to fill out, in five minutes or less, the following “Almanac Questionnaire.” Then, use your responses as to basis for a poem.

The longing is sudden and intense

made more acute by the greying skies

as well as the letter of a childhood friend

which I found tucked in the folds of my old school dress

during an intense bout of cleaning

I tell my beloved I must have jhalmuri*, now!

he shakes his head at my childish request

tells me to look out into the empty street

lined with stern, sentry like lampposts

not even a stray dog is visible from my window

feeling small and woebegone I sit there

when a sudden downpour pelts me

taking me back to the red-bricked maternal childhood home

where I would stand in the courtyard in a cotton slip

under the large gulmohar tree

and catch the petals caressed raindrops

on my tongue

shivering with fever at night

I would insist grandma tell me

the story of prince charming again

as she applied warm oil on my feet

now in this huge metro, confined in a thousand square foot

can’t even walk to the cornershop

down the alley for groceries!

the borders all around, completely sealed

with a sigh I get up, saving my tears for later

pick my pen then put it down

thoughts too jumbled up to flow with ink

the newspaper lies neglected in a corner

for all it does is reduce people to numbers

and propagate theories of megalomaniac leaders

as well as lab-made diseases

a hot cuppa is thrust in my hand with a pat on my back

and the tears flow unbidden

will I be able to see my mom soon

will we rise Phoenix like

or crumble like the ancient fort of my city

suddenly the graffiti on the subway flashes across my eyes

“You are not alone!”

*jhalmuri : a spicy, savoury snack made with puffed rice and vegetables. Watch it here.

Quantum quotient

Today’s prompt (optional, as always) asks you to write a poem about a particular letter of the alphabet, or perhaps, the letters that form a short word.

Q querulous and upset

is quite queasy about her rotundity

similar to her predecessor, once removed

queen-like, she insisted on a train

and now refuses to go anywhere without it

which in cursive to her qonsternation

is not dissimilar from g

she also prefers to have u in lowercase

follow her like an attendant carrying an umbrella

queer, quirky and quixotic

she is not the quiet types who can be quelled!

Adjustments

Today, I’d like to challenge you to find an idiomatic phrase from a different language or culture, and use it as the jumping-off point for your poem.

He who doesn’t have a dog hunts with a cat

so the hunt begins; from

scouring all pantry shelves to nearby shops

ingenuity steps in to satisfy the hunger of a wolf

that bares its fangs in my kids

with lofty demands of the meals being visually stunning too!

I go crazy getting the consistency and colour of the sauce correct

and baking cookies with just the right balance of crispy-chewiness

these are times when the old and the new collide

rushed meals and occasional treats were once a norm

replaced now by leisurely, demanding, long drawn meals

adjusting to the new regimen is taking its time

but then, when were we promised that it would be easy?

1. The idiom: Quem não tem cão caça com gato
Literal translation: “He who doesn’t have a dog hunts with a cat.”
What it means: “You make the most of what you’ve got.” Basically, you do what you need to do, with what the resources you have.

2. The idiom: yma nown bleyth dhymm
Literal translation : I’ve got the hunger of a wolf

What it means: I’m starving/very hungry

Queues

Today’s optional prompt asks you to make use of today’s resource. Find a poem in a language that you don’t know, and perform a “homophonic translation” on it. What does that mean? Well, it means to try to translate the poem simply based on how it sounds. You may not wind up with a credible poem at the end, but this can be a fun way to step outside of your own mind for a bit, and develop a poem that speaks in a distinctive voice.

I have selected a French poem by Samira Negrouche for homophonic translation.

To assemble is difficult
No queues, no motorcycles
Passing over queues, I sit
Queueing is a valley of pain
Lets meet never again, ’tis
Veritable punishment
Functional paralysis is assumed as
Statistical paralysis as well
It is a logical saturation.

(Yeah, I know it sounds covid related! Even when I step out of my mind, I end up there!)

You can read the original poem and the translation here.

Selfless love

Today, in gratitude for making it to Day 20, our (optional) prompt asks you to write a poem about a handmade or homemade gift that you have received.

I rummage through my treasure chest

I want to let go of some memories

there is so much clutter

that needs clearing up

but I want one last look

before I say a final goodbye

to things that no longer mean what they used to

I smile as I come across

a chewed up yellow duck

it was a gift from my beloved pup

I was ten and he was barely one

on seeing my excitement

at all the gifts I received on my birthday

he had dropped his favourite

drool covered toy in my lap

all he wanted was a joyous hug in return

I hug it close now and put it back

this memory I need for keeps

for times that call for a reminder of selfless love.