and i give her a hymn. i tell her of my existence curling around the navel of vishnu. of how i
rose out of his lightning embrace and emerged into the stars of vaikuntha, the first primal
sound. i tell her of my birth being the consequence of zeus’ skull snapping into two. of how i
rose out of the bloodied fumes, ready for war and ambition. how it felt, to finally look down
at a man as i sang for the very first time in my life. yes, my birth is from the womb, but i
remind my daughter. i hold her shoulder and tell her that keerthana also means a hymn, a
hymn to the gods. and hymns exist of independence, my dear. i am as new as the newly born summer flowers. i am as old as the time urvashi uttered pururav’s name in the hall of infinite dances. i existed when dionysus charmed the women of pentheus into madness, and i existed when sappho took to the lyre and sang of aphrodite fooling her with sad, ill-fated love. i danced at the temple of krishna with mirabai as my guide. i tied the trinkets on aandal’s tiny feet as she stood with a garland for her divinity. i lit the twin lamps of surdas' eyes as he pined for a final gaze upon the almighty. i sat next to tennyson as he prayed, prayed, and prayed in the memories of a boy he kissed. i am in william shakespeare’s sonnets, i am in rumi’s soft poetry. in wordsworth’s pining for the solitary reaper, in oliver’s body as she lies under the black oak tree. in the soft melodies of the waterfalls, the pitter patter of rain. the way a train fills the heart of a socially lost girl with the sound of metal waves. the way books exist, in their slow, languid, accepting manner in the library. the stories that flow through my hymn. the dawn, the dusk, the moon. the winds. i’ve been given birth and death a billion times at this point, my daughter. and here, as i stand in front of you, i am all the hymns i have been and all the hymns i will be. my daughter, i am the woman, the hymn, and the woman. all you need to do is to come near me and give me a kiss: that heavenly sound that started my hymn. the sound of love.
Keerthana A is an Indian writer and often describes herself as a "Mumbaikar living within a Tamilian", owing to her multilingual identity. She is a lover of poetry and has an avid learning for new formats and styles of poetry. She enjoys singing, swimming, watching historical shows, and running towards the nearest beach to feel the ocean waves.
This piece has been previously published in Healthline Zine.