I was delighted to take on the challenge of writing a poem to help celebrate Diwali in Cupertino. The Chamber of Commerce hosted a huge Diwali Festival in Cupertino’s Memorial Park on Saturday, October 17, and I read this poem at the festival.
(For more information about my adventures at the Cupertino Library’s booth, and the community poem written by me, Amanda Williamsen, and 63 visitors, read more at this link.)
This poem is in the form of a pantoum. I like the form for holiday and seasonal poems, because it emphasizes repeated images and is well suited to themes of time and celebration– events like Diwali that come around year after year. In this poem I linked my memories of being a teenager in Cupertino (seeing the distinctive shape of lights from the quarry on the hillside while driving home in the dark) to current images of lights (the Mary Avenue pedestrian and bicycle bridge) that can be seen at night driving into Cupertino.
Also, in October, you might see both Diwali and Halloween lights driving around your neighborhood.
“Home on Diwali”
A Pantoum for the Cupertino Diwali Festival, October 2015
I don’t know much about Diwali,
but I know the shape of familiar lights
means that I am home.
I’m told Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps.”
A familiar shape of lights,
shining in a line on the dark hillside,
might be a row of lighted Diwali lamps –
twisting like a broken tree branch –
The shining lines on the dark hillside
(it was the quarry above our house)
twisted like a broken tree branch,
seemed so close when I was a child –
The quarry lights above our house,
for many years a welcome sight,
seemed so close when I was a child,
after late night family parties.
In recent years a welcome sight
while driving westward on 280
after late night family parties,
the pedestrian & bicycle bridge glows!
Driving westward on 280
I see, lit up against the sky
the pedestrian & bicycle bridge glowing:
a shining gate into the city.
Lit up bright against the sky –
this symbol of our rushing lives –
a shining gate into the city,
where things are happening, in October.
A symbol of our rushing lives,
the end of summer is a time
when things can happen! In October
my house is hung with purple bats –
The end of summer is a time
when orange globes and spider webs
hang on the house with purple bats –
my children decorate this year.
When orange globes and spider webs
light up our neighbors’ streets
(my children decorate this year)
we find light in gloom and darkness.
Light up our neighborhood streets!
I don’t know much about Diwali,
but I’ve found light in gloom and darkness,
and know that I am home.
Here I am in the beautiful saree I was invited to wear for the occasion. I’m very grateful to Anjali Kausar and Janki Chokshi for all their friendly support! Janki pined me into the saree so I wouldn’t lose it. Many thanks also to Ann Stevenson of the Cupertino Library Commission for arranging this reading with Anajli (current CEO of the Chamber). Thanks to Chwen Lim for the photos of the saree fitting.
See more photos from the day here. I learned so much at the Diwali Festival. What a great outpouring of spirit and energy!
Other pantoums can be found at the Poetry Foundation.
Other poems that celebrate Diwali can be found on these sites and I’m sure many more:
- The Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India Diwali Festival poetry page
- In Hindi on the Poem Ocean blog
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