By Candice Louisa Daquin
If we consider poetry as a polemic for societal change – then Megha Sood’s full-length poetry collection, My body lives like a threat, will strike a deep chord in the reader’s psyche. Sood doesn’t aim to soften the blow; her truth is brutal and honest, wrapped in her wordsmith craft. Social activism runs like a hot vein through these poems, imploring us to step outside boundaries and challenge the broken system until it begins to give way.
“Your breath on my skin spits and marks its boundaries. Your words carve out / the burnished wounds. The bourgeois display of pain splayed for the whole world. / To whom this body belongs? Suffering is nameless. Carved out of the tongues of those / who abused us. Misunderstood and mispronounced like a foreign language.” (Entry/Exit)
Reading these poems separated into four relevant sections, we’re submerged in a collective outrage against inequity and racism. When in recent history have, we needed a book like this more than now? They say it takes a village, and Sood’s words are a veritable village of experience. Her reach into empathy and intelligent understanding (“This lack of emergency / this hunger frothing between our teeth” – True Lies) of how the machinations of oppression, patriarchy, and injustice work, is uncanny and deeply moving. Sood’s poems deftly unravel the lies we’re told; instead, she presents the gory truth about suffering, bias, and prejudice as it really is.
“Where were the entry points for the catacombs this city / was hiding for so long chewing and spitting out the half-eaten narratives. / The flawed narratives. / Where is the blind mouth of this cave which /devoured everything which one was once black and beautiful.” (Safekeeping).
We badly need civic-minded, eyes-open poets like Megha Sood. Not to write pretty poems but to storm into a room and present the truth for all those who are too comfortable to do anything about it.
“the unbroken trails of tears have yet again / dusted by the ashes of dead and unknown / screaming from the headlines of the paper, / lying helpless at our doorsteps / waiting to be hauled in we are averting our eyes to living these days.” (Are You Listening, World?).
If poetry can cause social change, and I believe it can, then My body lives like a threat will drive a much-needed stake into the heart of apathy; forcing us to confront our notions of what is acceptable. Megha Sood has written a battle cry, and I for one am turning up. Her fierce unbridled words are searing truths for a world that has misplaced the art of truth-telling. Maybe she’s the original reason people wrote poetry.
“You are not carrying your freedom in your arms /your right to bear arms/ when the only right you give to a mother / is to stick a cross in the middle of an unknown street / giving a piece of land for her dead son.” (An Act of Self Defense, After Ahmaud Arbery).
This intense poem about a shattering event, continues scathingly:
“To hell with your right to the Second Amendment / when it’s laced with the blood / of a black brother whose murder / you are incessantly / trying to justify as self-defense.”
We think of poets as breaking conventions but even then, to blatantly call out a system with the purity of outrage, is relatively new because for so long those complaints were denied publication and only localized. Sood stands outside parochial group-think as an outsider looking in, sharing with us a collectivized observation through her no-holds-barred approach. Perhaps when you have experienced the immigrant journey and survived it, you have transcended notions of ‘place’ and you can write fearlessly on what you witness without needing to watch your tongue. There is a freedom to Sood’s truths that most will find refreshing and necessary. When poets share the inequality of the world, they forge conversation. Sood’s style is a perpetual question, calling out that which is unacceptable but accepted, that which is wrong but justified.
“how thin is the separation between / the love and the acceptance, / despair and the second chances, / between the judged and the forgiven.” (Demarcation)
And should you for a moment, think this poet is safely removed, speaking from a distance, then reflect please on the title of this book and its message of survival. Megha Sood the woman who has endured and thrived even when she thought she could not. Consider the aching truth of what it takes to survive and how even if we do, we understand the pain in a molecular level ever afterward:
“My pain impaled on the stars in the nightly sky / I shine through my pulverized skin, / the broken pieces I foraged together / to make a whole of me.” (My Survival Story).
When Sood says “I am the knowledge in the verse.” She’s not being pithy, she’s harkening to the reality of being a woman: “I’m the war cry, the mortal fear / residing behind the enemy lines.” (My Survival Story). Aside from being a well-informed polemic on the depleted state of racial equality today, Sood’s work is intensely feminist, standing in defense of all women in the 21st century. Some may say, we don’t need defending, but as long as inequity exists, that’s simply not true, and without speaking out, change will never be wrought. We need poets like Megha Sood, not just in India or America but every continent, until it becomes universally accepted to treat all people with respect. The book’s title is both a woman’s body being under threat but also being a threat (to the established norms of violence and oppression) gives a clever double-meaning to this collection’s title. With reproductive rights under attack, this is beyond timely.
This canny poetess is a leading voice in Indian-American poetry with her voice carving a way through the false belief that everyone has an equal chance in America today. Her blunt, informed, fierce voice refuses half-measures, and stands shoulder-to-shoulder alongside other social justice warriors, utilizing the power of poetry to identify and harness meaningful change.
You can find the book here: https://www.flowersongpress.com/store/p/my-body-lives-like-a-threat
Candice Louisa Daquin, Senior Editor, Indie Blu(e) Publishing. Poetry Editor, The Pine Cone Review. Writer-in-Residence, Borderless Journal. Editorial Partner, Blackbird Press. Author of Tainted by the Same Counterfeit (Finishing Line Press, 2022).