Green Goddess

by Siva Ramanathan
The Writer's Block
Second Place, July 2014
Judged by Suzanne Lummis


On those long drives in our old Herald
you looked out of the glass window
counting coconut trees.

On Sundays we went to the Marina
and flew aeroplane kites;
I waited to see the stars.

On a train, going to your native land
for the ‘seventh–month carrying’ ceremony
I disembarked half way, afraid of facing your relatives.

How many years have you been married?
No creature, not even a worm growing in your tummy?
Do not postpone too long, the younger the brisker.

Tulsi, dainty maiden shrub, green goddess
for years I drank your syrup to cure my cough
unaware your potion was culprit.

Prasad, offered by the priests as an ancient “holy” leaf
to chew. That agent the old still use to celibate
I snatch from the reach of all nubile girls.


The figure in this poem speaks in a composed, lucid voice, a language distilled to a purity, but she makes a questionable claim. She blames the herb used in religious ceremonies, Tulsi, for her inability to bear a child. In order to determine whether we have here an "unreliable narrator" I researched the "Holy Basil," and while I found many reports extolling its benefits -- antioxidant, anti-aging, and anti-stress properties -- one did suggest it had led to decreased fertility in lab animals. Perhaps the speaker came upon the same reference. In any case, what matters is that she believes the herb led to her infertility, and in this there is such odd pathos, as if the sacred has betrayed her. It's an unusual, interesting little poem, one in which the poet doesn't tell us what to believe, what to conclude. --Suzanne Lummis

  • December 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Tires
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Babilu

      Second Place

      Scouring Pots While the World Ends
      by Elizabeth Koopman
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Poetry in the Cultural Revolution
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Waters

  • November 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Radium Girls
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Second Place

      The Unreliable Narrator
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Birds 2
      by JJ Williamson
      Babilu

      Honorable Mention

      Too Late
      by Billy Howell-Sinnard
      The Waters