Ravi Shankar


Ravi Shankar is Associate Professor and Poet-in-Residence at Central Connecticut State University and the founding editor of the international online journal of the arts, Drunken Boat. He has published a book of poems, Instrumentality (Cherry Grove), named a finalist for the 2005 Connecticut Book Awards and co-authored a chapbook with Reb Livingston, Wanton Textiles (No Tell Books). His creative and critical work has previously appeared in such publications as The Paris Review, Poets & Writers, Time Out New York, The Massachusetts Review, Fulcrum, McSweeney’s and the AWP Writer’s Chronicle, among many others. He has taught at Queens College, University of New Haven, and Columbia University, where he received his MFA in Poetry. He has appeared as a commentator on NPR and Wesleyan Radio and read his work in many places, including the Asia Society, St. Mark’s Poetry Project and the National Arts Club. He currently serves on the Advisory Council for the Connecticut Center for the Book and along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, is co-editing an anthology of contemporary South Asian, East Asian Poetry, due out with W.W.Norton & Co. in Spring 2008.


Indian Elephant

Under date palms and a towering gopuram
studded with carvings of deities in acrobatic
sexual congress, it’s almost easy to overlook

the dark, mustached mahout in khaki shorts
leaning against a crooked stick, murmuring
in Malayalam to the ornamented purveyor

of blessings beside him, bedecked in marigolds
spirals of white paint outlining wistful eyes
and plummeting down a trunk that swings

to pluck a rupee from the devout, to bless
the bent-headed. In one practiced motion,
the prodigiuos converted into the propitious.


Box Turtle

Jeweled egg in the middle of a twisting
path tamped down by footfall, darkened
in the shadow of tall pines, I pluck and put

it to my nose. Gradually, like arousal
rousing by degrees, a blunt head extends
from an uncircumcised prepuce to glare

red-eyed at how earth has been removed
from under it, how it flails three-toed
in space, until abruptly, a hinged plastron

snaps shut. Gathering itself in, domed shell
concentrically radiating orange and black
in a mantra: hermetic, tantric, self-reliant.


Jumbo Jet

Such scale manifest in juxtaposition:
like a pod of echolocating whales
fuselages roll, immense, silhouetted

on taxiway tarmac by blue edge lights
and halogen green center reflectors
to aprons serviced by motorised ramps,

fuel trucks, baggage carts, flag wavers,
all turning in synchronicity to words
emitted from the Sphinx-like control

tower. Approaching aircraft moving
from skies through its own length
so progressively, it appears to hover