By Ethelbert Miller
Today is Reetika’s birthday. On January 22, 2010, at the National Press Club, I made the following remarks at the the launch of RADHA SAYS, her posthumous book of poems:
I think Reetika Vazirani’s life and work is a bridge between two worlds. Reetika was a woman who was always on the move – looking and searching for a home. It is no surprise that her work turned inwards to explore such topics as religion and myths. How can we recognize our footprints if we cannot see the path we are on?
In the last poem of WORLD HOTEL, Reetika reminds us that it’s a young country and we cannot bear to grow old.
In RADHA SAYS, she writes:
Never mind the flickering lamp
I am lying on my side
And you who’ve known all breathing patterns
Who’ve finished meditating on
Forever forgoing desire descend
To my room for the last time
In one of the many letters that Reetika wrote me—all of them now at William and Mary for future scholars to read—she jokes about wearing a baseball cap and pretending to be me. That summer of 2003, at Bennington, we sat with our backs together and our heads touching. I told her I now knew where her poems came from.
We rocked back and forth…
I would not sing you to sleep.
I would press my lips to your ear
And hope the terror in my heart stirs you.
In 2010, it is not the terror that stirs us but the love. The love we have for Reetika and all the words that still live.
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