Chant of a Million Women
by Shirani Rajapakse
My body is a temple, not
a halfway house you enter for
temporary shelter from
the heat and dust swirling through trees.
It’s not a guest house to book a room, spend
a night on your way to someplace else.
Not a transit lounge
to while away the hours until
your next flight to fantasy seeking
My body is my temple.
Enter with reverence.
Keep your shoes at the door your
hat on the step. Bring flowers as offering.
Garlands of jasmine wound tight, pink
lotus piled up high on a tray, petals opened,
lips inviting, alluring.
Place oil lamps on the floor.
Let the light guide the way, chase away
shadows trying to hide in gloomy corners.
Burn sweet incense, let the perfume linger
on the air, climb on the tail of a
gust of breeze
and travel unhindered.
Murmur sutras to supplicate.
Sing songs of praise.
Call out my many names amassed
down the ages.
Place those trays of fresh fruit,
succulent, ripe and oozing, at the side.
My body is my own.
Not yours to take
when it pleases you, or
use as collateral in the face
of wars fought for your greed, or zest to own.
Not give to appease the enemy, reward
the brave who sported so valiantly in the
trenches, stinking of blood and gore.
It’s not a product.
Not something to bargain, barter for goods
and services, share with friends,
handed around the table,
a bowl of soup, drink your fill,
use and abuse as you please.
Don’t adorn me in expensive silks and gold,
and gift to the Gods, or
wrap me up in a shroud,
imprison me, maim my thoughts
that shout to get out.
No religious decree, no social pressure,
you have no right to own.
It’s mine and mine alone and you have
no authority to take it away from me.
* * * * *
"Chant of a Million Women" is the title poem of Shirani Rajapakse's poetry collection Chant of a Million Women (August 2017).
Shirani Rajapakse is an internationally published, award winning poet and author. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013 and was a finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013. Her collection of short stories Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Her poetry collection Chant of a Million Women was self published in August 2017 and is nominated for a Reader's Choice Award.
Rajapakse’s work appears in publications around the world including, Flash:The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Litro, Silver Birch, International Times, City Journal, Writers for Calais Refugees, The Write-In, Asian Signature, Moving Worlds, Citiesplus, Deep Water Literary Journal, Mascara Literary Review, Kitaab, Lakeview Journal, Cyclamens & Swords, New Ceylon Writing, Channels, Linnet’s Wings, Spark, Berfrois, Counterpunch, Earthen Lamp Journal, Asian Cha, Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry Review, About Place Journal, Skylight 47, The Smoking Poet, New Verse News, The Occupy Poetry Project and in anthologies, Flash Fiction International (Norton 2015), Ballads (Dagda 2014), Short & Sweet (Perera Hussein 2014), Poems for Freedom (River Books 2013), Voices Israel Poetry Anthology 2012, Song of Sahel (Plum Tree 2012), Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology, World Healing World Peace (Inner City Press 2012 & 2014) and Every Child Is Entitled to Innocence (Plum Tree 2012).
She has a BA in English Literature (University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka) and a MA in International Relations (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India).
She interviews, promotes and reviews books by indie authors on The Writer's Space at https://shiranirajapakse.wordpress.com.