Thursday, August 8, 2013

My mother didn’t believe
when, in 1945, I appeared to her
in a dream and told her
I would be born to her the following year.

My father recognised me
as soon as he saw
the mole below my left thumb.
But mother believed to the very end
that someone else had been born to her
masquerading as me.

Father and I pleaded with her,
but dreams are not reliable witnesses.
She went on waiting for that
promised son till she died

Only when she was reborn as my daughter
did she admit it had really been me.

But by then I had begun to doubt:
it was someone else’s heart
beating within my body.

One day I will retrieve my heart;
my language too.
- K Satchidanandan
From: While I Write: New And Selected Poems

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Poetry week

has just been declared.
After all why not give in whole heartedly to the stereotype of what people do after having their heart broken. Cry, eat chips, drink heavily even on weekdays, turn your Twitter feed into a graveyard for songs about lost love and revenge, read poetry and force it on other people.

To the Welsh Critic who does not find me Identifiably Indian

You believe you know me,
wide-eyed Eng Lit type
from a sun-scalded colony,
reading my Keats - or is it yours -
while my country detonates
on your television screen.
You imagine you’ve cracked
my deepest fantasy -
oh, to be in an Edwardian vicarage,
living out my dharma
with every sip of dandelion tea
and dreams of the weekend jumble sale…
You may have a point.
I know nothing about silly mid-offs,
I stammer through my Tamil,
and I long for a nirvana
that is hermetic,
bottled in Switzerland,

This business about language,
how much of it is mine,
how much yours,
how much from the mind,
how much from the gut,
how much is too little,
how much too much,
how much from the salon,
how much from the slum,
how I say verisimilitude,
how I say Brihadaranyaka,
how I say vaazhapazham -
it’s all yours to measure,
the pathology of my breath,
the halitosis of gender,
my homogenised plosives
about as rustic
as a mouth-freshened global village.
Arbiter of identity,
remake me as you will.
Write me a new alphabet of danger,
a new patois to match
the Chola bronze of my skin.
Teach me how to come of age
in a literature you’ve bark-scratched
into scripture.
Smear my consonants
with cow-dung and turmeric and godhuli.
Pity me, sweating,
rancid, on the other side of the counter.
Stamp my papers,
lease me a new anxiety,
grant me a visa
to the country of my birth.
Teach me how to belong,
the way you do,
on every page of world history.

-Arundhathi Subramaniam


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Warsan Shire

is my discovery of the week. Here are four excerpts from different poems. 

“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered


“i gut fruit with my mouth
push tongue into black belly of papaya
peel lychee with teeth
bite into ripe pear
suck on stone of mango
all of this, over the kitchen sink
middle of winter
sticky hands pushing hair away from face
moaning into sweet flesh
the whole time
your name flat against the roof of my mouth.”


"how far have you walked for men who’ve never held your feet in their laps?
how often have you bartered with bone, only to sell yourself short?
why do you find the unavailable so alluring?
where did it begin? what went wrong? and who made you feel so worthless?
if they wanted you, wouldn’t they have chosen you?
all this time, you were begging for love silently, thinking they couldn’t hear you, but they smelt it on you, you must have known that they could taste the desperation on your skin?
and what about the others that would do anything for you, why did you make them love you until you could not stand it?
how are you both of these women, both flighty and needful?
where did you learn this, to want what does not want you?
where did you learn this, to leave those that want to stay?"


"and you tried to change didn't you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can't make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.”