Usha Akella has authored two books of poetry. She is the founder of the Poetry Caravan, an organization that provides free readings and workshops to the disadvantaged. She has read at various international festivals and her work is upcoming in the HarperCollins Anthology of Indian English Poetry. She lives in Austin, Texas, USA.


Hymn To Shiva

Here take this bitterness

Hold it in the cup of your throat

For all the lives I may live

Call yourself  Neelkant

So I may be sweet as a lyre.


Take these desires

Wreathe them on your body

That I may be a temple

Empty as eternity.


Here take the sight of this world

So I might close my eyes in ecstasy.


Take this, my anger

Seat yourself on it

Your own compassion

whirling white as the milky way

Frothing in your matted locks.


Let it overflow

Drench me.


Tomorrow’s poem

I want to begin a poem
without saying “I want,”
Wait like a page or
          undone button in the dust,
A poem that comes like
a blighted ovum,
fading as a body fades into a shroud.
inside, demons are persistent like
worker bees, it is not the unwillingness

to surrender
            to the divine but
            the unwillingness to
            give up on the human,


I want the one as the many.
All that is good is in small quantities,
                Like the hidden flames in flowers,
                    Like eyes which are magic lamps
                      holding the universe,
All that ties us is invisible,
                                     trailing umbilical chords unsevered.
They tell me prophets are missing from caves,
their words floating in bottles in old seas,
and old cities surface like prophecies,
and someone is a silent incarnation working like yeast,
for some this is enough,
here, I don’t know that face in the mirror,
a ship afar, the sails down.




Botero’s Doves


Can there be a dove of peace,

And a dove of war?

Can a country stick out two tongues?

Its wounds bloom like roses

Or explode as rifle fire,

Can there be two dawns?

A dawn of the sun,

A dawn of the night.

Humans, we have two hearts,

One black and one white,

But to see it so exposed…



Botero’s doves are installed in the plaza  of church of St. Antonio. Botero donated the dove of peace to the city of Medellin which was subsequently bombed. He donated another on condition that the former dove remain as it is. The two doves stand next to each other, a chilling  symbol of Medellin’s history.