June 2, 2014

Vandana Khanna: “The Goddess Reveals What It Takes To Be Holy”

Vandana photo

This week we feature a new poem by Vandana Khanna. Khanna was born in New Delhi, India and received her M.F.A. from Indiana University. Her first collection, Train to Agra, won the Crab Orchard Review First Book Prize and her second collection, Afternoon Masala, won the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize. She is the 2013 winner of the Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize and teaches at the University of Southern California.
 

Author’s Note:

My current writing project re-imagines iconic stories central to Hindu mythology. Here, gods and goddesses fight with each other, refuse their destinies and examine their faith and their doubt within the ever-shifting landscape of the poems. In “The Goddess Reveals What It Takes To Be Holy,” I’m interested in the notion of what it means to be a “goddess,” not only in the context of mythology but also within the domestic sphere. To maintain an image of perfection requires sacrifice and a complicated relationship between submission and defiance, independence and conformity.

 

The Goddess Reveals What It Takes To Be Holy

 

Every girl wants to be post-sadness,
post-jungle so don’t be fooled
by the cloak the color of heaven,
by petals perpetually at your feet.

 

To be the favorite, you have to
give in: clip on a smile, sweep
the floor with your hair, let him
call you by the wrong name.

 

Repeat after me: I’ll hurt for you,
I’ll domestic for you.
This requires constancy:
to shun, to burn, to look ugly

 

in white. Keep quiet, even as
the world is ending—hearts
skipping beats, histories peeled
off of your palms, line by line:

 

first love, then life. Full of doubt,
you must be content with stitching
your own wounds, buffing your scars
to a blinding gleam.

 

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