Tag Archives: Tamil

Their daughters

Paracetamol legends I know
For rising fevers, as pain-relievers—

Of my people—father’s father’s mother’s
Mother, dark lush hair caressing her ankles
Sometimes, sweeping earth, deep-honey skin,
Amber eyes—not beauty alone they say—she
Married a man who murdered thirteen men and one
Lonely summer afternoon her rice-white teeth tore
Through layers of khaki, and golden white skin to spill
The bloodied guts of a British soldier who tried to colonize her. . .

Of my land—uniform blue open skies,
Mad-artist palettes of green lands and lily-filled lakes that
Mirror all—not peace or tranquil alone, he shudders—some
Young woman near my father’s home, with a drunken husband
Who never changed; she bore his beatings everyday until on one
Stormy night, in fury, she killed him by stomping his seedbags. . .

We: their daughters.
We: the daughters of their soil.

We, mostly, write.

(First published in Quarterly Literary Review, Singapore)

Advertisements

Returning home

And you see the two-crows-for-joy-pass that are sitting on
overhead cables and the evening moon,
a mere silvery slice against fluffy translucent sky.

And the remains of your school where you spent your twelve
longest years and lived through everything.

And the bus-stand you had to draw for your art-class in yellow
ochre or asphalt grey and the emptiness that now occupies the
place where a tiny café once stood.

And the tree where they fed you lunch before you learnt to walk
back home. And I thought of my parents.

Brilliant people talking of the intricacies of their life and the corruption of
morals and the bygone days and hunger in their childhood and their deaddear-
departed parents as if to teach you what to talk to your children.

(And you are their child,
so you speak their lines.)
Still returning home,

And there are rusty mammoth girders that outline the sky like
the derelicts of lost dreams and crossed hopes.

And girls so flimsy pretty yet unsafe in the little worlds of lip
gloss and love affairs that you could have smoked them into
oblivion.

And the dry decaying dead leaves crushed with varying noises
and carrying a spent smell that clings to your hair.

And the shy forest noises that violate your fixation over sight
and sound and smell and touch yes touch.

And I thought of my lover.

A primitive man who would invade
your aloneness on insomniac nights
and challenge your assumptions of
love and your sophistications and fill
your ears with the four letter words of
his ancient language that have begun
to sound to you like earth songs to
which your body awakens.

(And you are his love,
so you listen to his lines.)

On the way home, the small
lessons you learn of life. . .
Love, or the promise of love,
its lack of choice.
This large world.
And its littleness.

Sun in the mouth

And the truth scorches and singes
the pink open flesh of your mouth
with its pungent yellow taste, so,
speaking the truth is not so easy
with just one tongue, anyway.

Seeing might have been closest
to truth and as Plotinus said
the eye would not be able to see
the sun if it was itself not sun
and so seeing was understanding.

The Egyptians called the eye
with the circle of the iris
with the pupil in the centre
as the sun in the mouth
and that was their truth.

Cyclops must have had little
to see in this vast world and
deprived of the whole truth
and that was his loss, his tragedy.

Even Argus with all his eyes
couldn’t escape in the end.
How much truth, how many eyes
of how many senses would it take
to tell the truth to the lord of the third-eye?

A king of a Tamil temple city
raged mad to know the truth
of the scent of a woman’s hair.
Since money bought truth
he made ready, a thousand gold coins.

And a poor poet still married to faith
prayed on to Shiva, the lord of struggling
survivors, lord of births and lives and
deaths, lord of poor poets who gave him
a poem to be sung at the king’s court.

A savant there picked a mistake like
peeling the scab of a healed wound
and said that the poem was wrong.
He said that any woman’s hair
did not have a natural scent.

The lord of dances and grey ash
and cremation grounds came down
to challenge this stubborn man who
extended his truth, even if the woman
was the consort of the lord.

He would not budge even if the lord
threatened to open his third eye,
the eye in the forehead which would
reduce him to bone-white ashes
as light as the wispiest clouds.
The court cowered in fright. . .

But in arrogance the savant said
a mistake is a mistake
even if it was the lord
of the forehead-eye.

O’ saint-bard and master of many wily words
What do you know of truth or love,
or the scent of a woman’s hair?
On the nights of naked sky and
a fragile quarter moon, my lord,
he of the deep blue throat,
he of the rivers in his hair,
he of the third-eye, comes to me.
Before he tears the blankness
of my womb, before he traces
the length of my spine, the curve
of my thighs, before he strokes
my cheeks, he buries his head
in the thousand and one nights
of my long tresses and he says
it smells like the wind-lost voices
of his childhood summers.

Love and war

two thousand years ago
our word for love
was the same.

women and men
wrote their songs of love
the intimacies of inside

and they spoke of how
love was tireless
love was a fantasy feast
love was no disease
love was no evil goddess
love was a harshness, in the parting
love was
             ‘the thing that made a girl’s bangles
             slip loose when her lord went away
             grow tight when her lord returned’
love was (they sang)
             ‘bigger than the earth
             higher than the sky
             unfathomable than the waters.’
love was.

no names were named.
you did not know
             who he was
             or who she was
             or when it was
             or where it was
only
love was.

and there were
the poems of war,
the war poetry
poems on the outside

(and perhaps
because the bards
wore lotuses of gold)

there are
the poems
where the names were named
where the kings were praised
where a bard addressed another
where the guide sang to the patron
where the poet sang to the courtesan
where mothers spoke of tigers in their wombs
where the kingdom was
             ‘an unfailing harvest of
             victorious wars’
where the old women
             ‘threatened to slash their breasts
             if their sons died in battle with backs
             turned in fright’
where the end spoke of
             ‘the blood glowing
             in the red center of the battlefield
             like the sky before nightfall’

and because it has an end
war was a history.

love never has an end.
love was. and will be.

Non-conversations with a lover

don’t talk to me
of sudden love. . .

in our land
even the monsoons come—
leisurely, strolling like
decorated temple elephants
(the pomp, the paraphernalia)—
after months of monotonous prayer,
preparations and palpitating waits.

my darling
his silence
(those still shoulders)
but his eyes dance
his eyes dance
(so wild, so wild)

so i think of raging
summer storms—
like uncontrollable tuskers
trampling in mast
(the madness, the lust)—
across the forests of our land. . .

(First published in Thanalonline.com)

Mulligatawny dreams

anaconda. candy. cash. catamaran.
cheroot. coolie. corundum. curry.
ginger. mango. mulligatawny.
patchouli. poppadom. rice.
tatty. teak. vetiver.

i dream of an english
full of the words of my language.

an english in small letters
an english that shall tire a white man’s tongue
an english where small children practice with smooth round
 pebbles in their mouth to the spell the right zha
an english where a pregnant woman is simply stomach-child-lady
an english where the magic of black eyes and brown bodies 
   replaces the glamour of eyes in dishwater blue shades 
   and the airbrush romance of pink white cherry blossom skins
an english where love means only the strange frenzy
   between a man and his beloved, not between him and his car
an english without the privacy of its many rooms
an english with suffixes for respect
an english with more than thirty six words to call the sea
an english that doesn’t belittle brown or black men and women
an english of tasting with five fingers
an english of talking love with eyes alone

and i dream of an english

where men
of that spiky, crunchy tongue
buy flower-garlands of jasmine
to take home to their coy wives
for the silent demand of a night of wordless whispered love . . .

(First published in Kavya Bharati)