The River

One day when you finally stop running
You realize so many have been holding
And passing batons along the way
You recall faces you hold dear
Some are far and some are near
Lives that intersect in different ways
Sometimes for a brief moment
Sometimes for a little longer

Some still present others departed
But what is presence other than
A collection of wisp like memories
A recalled fragrance, an essential
Brought back years later like the retrieval
Of long lost treasure
That could have happened
In the midst of the mundane
One morning at the breakfast table
Or one evening when the moon was full
When time lagged and the urgent
Took a backseat to the important

This river of souls
That runs through us
In turns, placid, turbulent
Raging through time
No longer held back
By landlocked boundaries

We are a collection of stories
Where nothing is forgotten
Just kept hidden
Of repeatable awareness
Of voices new and old
Past and present
Trying to be heard
Trying to predict a worthy future
—Shaku Selvakumar June 2013
The Miracle of Life.
The Miracle of Life.

The Homecoming

For so many years I spoke fluently
The language of other tribes
Though I moved in these places
With the greatest of ease
Inside the imposter couldn’t breathe

To infiltrate and remain
In disguise
Is to narrate a story
That is not yours
As time continues to flow
The lines start blurring

And the role that is played
Is the hero’s foil
Never to step into the spotlight
Always the butler
Never the knight

So many archetypes
In the arena, they fight

Pick me, I am a martyr
The humble servant
I always say yes,
When I want to say no
No pick me, I am a rebel
Oh poor me, cries the sad victim

Nurture me, I am the child
Always and forever, the mother vows

Rescue me, the princess begs
So long I have waited
In a tower so tall
My godmother hasn’t turned up
My hero is late

Don’t waste time, the siren says
Turn on the charm
You will be nothing,
When you turn gray

You are always wrong,
The critic is vehement
I am going to make you pay
The interrogator warns

You will be punished
The priest intones
Let it always be about me
The narcissist demands

The voices grow louder
A continuous monologue
Embittered, they parry
They heckle, prod and flounder
Till you call them out by name
Find their fears and fight their foes

When you are ready
For your own homecoming
Where familiarity
Is not contempt
Then you will hear the
Call of your tribe
Faint at first
And growing louder

The ones who live on the edges
Voyagers and Path finders
They hear your words
And speak your language
Though not of your blood
But of your spirit

—Shaku Selvakumar March 2013

Islands of Memory
Islands of Memory

The Flight of Doves

August is a bittersweet month for me.  I hadn’t written in verse since college with prose always my preferred route of communication.  But The Flight of Doves, my first poem came unbidden, written as a tribute to a good friend of our family who died on August 26th, 2006 in a tragic accident.   Without warning, without explanation…random, unnecessary and sudden… into the arms of Hades.

It also jumpstarted my need to revisit my personal journey that somehow got stuck in the reality of the mundane.  The journey has meandered sometimes distracted by glittering pathways, mostly directed by the hand of duty but through the pauses, every year on this day, I am even more pressed to remember that life is finite, love is infinite and that neither can be taken for granted.  Sometimes it takes the harshness of circumstances to force a shift in our lens that gets stained and tinted as we grow older and succumb to the “material happiness” checklist.

If you close your eyes and think back to a time when you laughed without inhibition or dropped your armor that is now second skin, you will see glimpses of your glory that could have been and could still be.

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”

The Flight of Doves

Send in the angels, he lived alone
Entombed before he left
Send in the clowns, he wept unknown
This burden of mine I bear

The flight of doves towards
The light set free
A spirit unchained by rewards
Of eternity

The hunger inside
To be and see
Fortunes ebb and decide
The path of destiny

Waves foam frothy white
Savage heart at which
Duty binds tight
Restless against the fight

To each a heel of Achilles
Marked and crossed bright red
To love and please
But leave as a thief in the night

Copyright © 2006 Shaku Selvakumar
Editor’s Choice Award

On Mary Oliver and the Journey

Courtesy Trey Ratcliff at

It’s Saturday and I have places to be,  lists to make, dishes in the sink, lunch to fix and yet here I am writing again.  Listening to music and reading Mary Oliver’s  poetry. 

Oliver’s poetry is grounding and you can see why.  She gets her inspiration from nature, solitude and intense self examination and there is an affirmative tone that takes you into the hopeful heart of transformation  She has been compared to Emily Dickinson as both women seem to be able to articulate with great simplicity the complex essence that lives within.

I pause at The Journey and I can tell that she is speaking to me. This evocative poem that completely holds me in thrall as I can picture her amidst all the “mend me, fix me” cries,  and yet she is pulled and compelled to follow that drumming in her head and the badgering in her heart.

 The Journey 

 One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.
~ Mary Oliver ~


On Derailment and Discovery

Growing wings picture courtesy O magazine columns

Last quarter was just a frenzy of doing and running. It seemed to me that between the launches at work, the festivals, kids, schools and their calendars, the puppy and her training, an advisory board and the madness of the holiday season, I was on some Red Bull trip. Then as is typical when you race too hard, your brakes do get worn out and wheels are wobbly, you will hit that proverbial wall.

I have never had a traffic violation or a speeding charge. So last Feb when the cop told me that my car didn’t have the inspection sticker updated, I thought ok cool, I’ll get it done and went on my merry way. Little did I know that you had to show up in court with evidence. Apparently the reminders went to the wrong address and on the first day of November, we had one of those visits. I wasn’t home but suffice to say, I was shaken up. Of course I got it resolved the next day but that is neither here nor there.

We tend to operate in this invincible mode till something goes out of whack, then we step back and say…whoa, didn’t know that I forgot to do this or missed that and then you realize that you are finite, bounded by the laws of time and space.

That juggling is really for clowns and pacing is for adults. You figure out that if you don’t pace yourself, set your boundaries or set aside time for thought, the rollercoaster ride that you are on can soon derail on any silly Tuesday of the week. Life does hang by a thread and the thickness of the thread depends on your bank account.

Sometimes you need the derailment. It can be quite painful. Suddenly you are not on the constant journey, rushing from one destination to another, from one task to the next, from one person to another. Derailment can throw you out on the pavement and have you curled up in a fetal position waiting for the internal instructions to come through to help you deal with what needs to happen next.

Now internal instructions aren’t always scripted for perfect assembly like that IKEA DIY manual. And if that is not a bummer, internal instructions can also be blocked from our access. It depends on whether while you are in that fetal position, you decide to move forward or decide that the past though uncomfortable was comfortable enough.

Assuming you decide during derailment to seek that instruction manual, then along with a torch light you need some brutal honesty. Light can illuminate or light can be blinding depending on your vision for your journey. Brutal honesty can help you figure out what habits constantly sabotage you. Do you give too much and then complain? Do you take on too many responsibilities and feel overwhelmed? Do you procrastinate and feel the stress? Are you too passive? Are you too defensive? Are you resentful? Are you a victim, a critic, a martyr, a cynic, a interrogator? You can play 20 questions and if there is enough honesty as the answers come forward, the next steps become more intuitive. Of course, that does not mean that the next steps will be easy or that you can see the entire path unfold within sight of that pot of gold.

But that is the journey of discovery. We always think that we can change for someone else but what is more important is to change for your self. That is the only change that is believable and sustainable.

To sum it up, here is a great extract from Martha Beck

I used to think I knew how some caterpillars become butterflies. I assumed they weave cocoons, then sit inside growing six long legs, four wings, and so on. I figured if I were to cut open a cocoon, I’d find a butterfly-ish caterpillar, or a caterpillar-ish butterfly, depending on how far things had progressed. I was wrong. In fact, the first thing caterpillars do in their cocoons is shed their skin, leaving a soft, rubbery chrysalis. If you were to look inside the cocoon early on, you’d find nothing but a puddle of glop. But in that glop are certain cells, called imago cells, that contain the DNA-coded instructions for turning bug soup into a delicate, winged creature—the angel of the dead caterpillar.

If you’ve ever been through a major life transition, this may sound familiar. Humans do it, too—not physically but psychologically. All of us will experience metamorphosis several times during our lives, exchanging one identity for another. You’ve probably already changed from baby to child to adolescent to adult—these are obvious, well-recognized stages in the life cycle. But even after you’re all grown up, your identity isn’t fixed.

Read more here