Nepali Times
Kundan Sharma


oet Kundan Sharma stands out from the growing numbers of women poets of today for the confidence and finesse of her voice. Some of her best poems speak to the issue of women's exploitation, and do so with a rare combination of conviction and art. Sharma does not flinch from hard social and psychological issues-the commodification of women's flesh, the erasure of women's personalities, neglect, discrimination and degradation. Yet they do not sacrifice art for the sake of their message; the unusual turns of phrases and expressions make her poetry fresh and alive. Both poems translated below appear in Kabita, the poetry journal of the Royal Nepal Academy.

Flesh Trade
It's true that flesh trade goes on here
Was there ever a time when it didn't?
Dress yourself in the marketplace's speech
or wear pajamas of kinship at home
or on a stage, offering the name of beauty
strip me naked exhibiting my every part
All you need is my body
so fornicate with that
Buy it or sell it for intercourse
enjoy it once you own it in the name of love
look for your lineage in my womb
or plot to earn riches through me
Give it any name
give it any false respectability
you are a mere devotee of my body
So take it, using any excuse
Who has ever understood my heart?
Who has sought it out?
Who feels any need for it?
I an excellent composition of nature
have always lived as a wish for pleasure
Here-the walls of kinship aren't respected
no age difference remains
your hand won't keep from patting the bodies
of the little girls sitting on my lap
It's true that flesh trade goes on here
Was there ever a time when it didn't?
Raise your eyes and examine
each street, each house
the stage, the papers, the cinemas and television
-everywhere, all over the place
you'll see my body there
All that has changed today
is that you used to force me at first
whereas now of my own accord
I strip myself-I sell myself
and meet my own costs
Possibly this is the single attraction
you feel towards me
Possibly this is the only control
I command over you
As long as the beast in you lives
and my self-respect doesn't awaken
this trade will continue in this way
this trade will go on in exactly this way

The Ardhanaarishwar Deity

There must be a sky for me somewhere
There must be an earth somewhere
that can be deemed my own
I, a part of your creation
who should I blame-
you or myself
or the rebellion burgeoning inside me?
A long time I've lived here in hiding
concealing myself
but my inner self couldn't reject myself
All my feelings were natural for me
there was no one to understand this though
If birth is reality why can't we accept
that it can take any form?
Just because the boundaries of your thinking
are set I won't be faulted
for not falling inside them
Why then had you accepted in this land
the half-Shiva half-Shakti deity
You refuse to see
that I can be born as anyone
in the bone-skin-flesh
of somebody's body and life force
I can grow up and live as anything
as a woman or man
as man in woman
as woman in man
I'm your own progeny
Don't give me up
disgraced by humiliation
From your love I demand
the right to exist as myself
the capacity to stand fearless
beneath this sky
For somewhere there must be a life
that can be my own
Somewhere somebody
will surely wait for me too

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)