Sudeep Sen – Bharatanatyam dancer

77

Spaces in the electric air divide themselves
in circular rhythms, as the slender
grace of your arms and bell-tied ankles
describe a geometric topography, real, cosmic,
one that once reverberated continually in
a prescribed courtyard of an ancient temple

in South India. As your eyelids flit and flirt, and
match the subtle abhinaya in a flutter
of eye-lashes, the pupils create an
unusual focus, sight only ciliary muscles
blessed and cloaked in celestial kaajal
could possibly enact.

The raw brightness of kanjeevaram silk, of
your breath, and the nobility of antique silver
adorns you and your dance, reminding us of
the treasure chest that is only
half-exposed, disclosed just enough, barely —
for art in its purest form never reveals all.

Even after the arc-lights have long faded,
the audience, now invisible, has stayed over.
Here, I can still see your pirouettes, frozen
as time-lapse exposures, feel
the murmuring shadow of an accompanist’s
intricate raag in this theatre of darkness,

a darkness where oblique memories of my
quiet Kalakshetra days filter,
matching your very own of another time,
where darkness itself is sleeping light,
light that merges, reshapes, and ignites,
dancing delicately in the half-light.

But it is this sacred darkness that endures,
melting light with desire, desire that simmers
and sparks the radiance of your
quiet femininity, as the female dancer
now illuminates everything visible: clear,
poetic, passionate, and ice-pure.

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Sudeep Sen
Sudeep Sen’s [www.sudeepsen.org] prize-winning books include: Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Rain, Aria (A. K. Ramanujan Translation Award), Fractals: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1980-2015 (London Magazine Editions), EroText (Vintage: Penguin Random House), and Kaifi Azmi: Poems | Nazms (Bloomsbury). He has edited influential anthologies, including: The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor), World English Poetry, and Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians (Sahitya Akademi). Anthropocene: Climate Change, Contagion, Consolation;, Blue Nude: Ekphrasis & New Poems (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) and The Whispering Anklets are forthcoming. Sen’s works have been translated into over 25 languages. His words have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Herald, Poetry Review, Literary Review, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on BBC, PBS, CNN IBN, NDTV, AIR & Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela: An Erotic Play of Verse and Art (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Random House/Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell), and Name me a Word (Yale). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS, editor of Atlas, and currently the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Museo Camera. Sen is the first Asian honoured to deliver the Derek Walcott Lecture and read at the Nobel Laureate Festival. The Government of India awarded him the senior fellowship for “outstanding persons in the field of culture/literature.”