Source: Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Paperback, 72 pgs
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Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram, which is on tour tomorrow with Poetic Book Tours, is a stunning collection of poems that give voice to the often solitary lives of Hindu widows. Whether these women loved their husbands, fell in love with them, or merely stayed out of their way, without them in their lives, these women struggle with the emptiness — a vacancy where desire, love, and affection should be. These women could wail and weep but it does not negate the fact that they become spectators in their own lives once their husbands are gone. They become apparitions of themselves, hollowed out and shoved to the background like furniture or paintings on the wall, only as useful as the remaining family allows them to be.
Despite their losses and Hindu traditions, these women are still very much alive. In “Eulogy” (pg. 39), the narrator says “I am a lady,/but I didn’t promise/to sleep in your shadow.” Despite their vitality, these women are in the shadows with no way out that would allow them to retain their respect. “Silence became my lover, that’s why.//Just so you know, my every kiss was real./I wrapped them in turmeric and sandalwood,/left them in your urn wrapped in a white sheet.//” (from “Silence Became My Lover”, pg. 34) In spite of their continued devotion, they must remain silent about it and their feelings and desires — in the eyes of the family, they have become non-entities without an anchor.
Many of these women loved deeply, passionately, but who can they share their memories with, except for their own grief and the silent walls around them. In “Never Abandoned” (pg. 7), the narrator laments, “we came crashing like a wave./We contained each other.//Even the rain can’t erase/the warm memories of our togetherness/the cold bones others try to break.//” For those widows who were abused or cuckolded, how do they move on from the death of their husband? Can they? They are still expected to wear grief like a devoted wife, honoring a marriage that to them may have been plagued with abuse and disappointment. These women are trapped in a different way than those who can feel comfort in their loving husband’s memories. There is no second chances at love or passion without consequence for these women.
Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a collection of eulogies, odes, and laments, but at its heart it is a collection that gives voice to the voiceless. The women in these pages, though unnamed, are given new life, and their passions are presented to all readers in a way that is open and honest. In the “wet silence” of their grief, there is no pretense, no hypocrisy; there is only the bare truth. It is a collection that should be used in schools, read in book clubs, and held up high on the best of poetry lists.
Sweta is someone I call friend, but she stuns me with each new book, and there is nothing less than awe inspiring in this collection.
- Because All Is Not Lost
- Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors
- Beyond the Scent of Sorrow
- No Ocean Here
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