If I Can Stop One Heart From Dying & I Almost Feel Like An Angel

The snot in the nose trembles, spit drools
that I clean till the skin fragile tender like a child’s
turns pink with rash. I hear rumbles in the throat
words forming through spittle, thoughts choking
as muscles atrophy and fail to carry the sound.

A box of circuits and wires, manipulate one
I know what will move next. Feed trickles through food pipe,
swells the bowel with air and waste which I work next at evacuating.
Fix the wire and help the circuit flow: that’s what life is about,
every time I figure this out it takes effort not to feel like God.


I Almost Feel Like An Angel

Sitting besides you has done this to me,
know that when I touch you you’ll open your eyes,
when I stand at the window a butterfly stops by,
clouds gather to rain on my parched tree.
Shit I say and you shit, cough I say and you cough:
mucus from your body I gather like soft flowers.

(These two poems, my entries for Day 6 and Day 7 of ‘New To You’ at the Big Tent Poetry, are inspired by Emily Dickinson’s ‘If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking’ and ‘Hope Is The Thing With Feathers’ respectively. It has been a difficult week for my family as my 90 year old father-in-law suffering from PD is very ill. Four of my seven poems reflect this. Between sleepless nights of vigil and care giving, hours of cooking for the large extended family that has gathered to give us strength, I am glad I found some time to write these poems. But I have not had time to read all those wonderful poems that my friends have been writing at the Big Tent.  )

Day 6 & Day 7 ‘New To You’ Big Tent Poetry

The Poem That Took The Place Of Death

Here it is word for word, I’ll talk to Yama, like Nachiketas
cross the river, dodge the crocs: I’ll do it this time.

Will Yama grant me audience? Is he travelling?
He sure needs to rest, take his job less seriously,

take his mind off the records he maintains:
who dies when, why, how. I’ll take him word for word,

wipe the words that form a destiny, a breath to someone
lying in the dark room writhing in pain

rewrite  a few words that will help him swallow food
pass wind and move his bowels. A few more words to pump

his heart and fill his lungs, carry memories of flying kites,
desire to see the sky lying on the green grass.

(I have borrowed the first line from Wallace Steven’s ‘The Poem That Took The Place Place Of A Mountain’. I seem to be going again and again to Wallace Stevens.)

Big Tent Poetry ‘New To You’ Day 5

The Literary Society, Madras

A humid afternoon in 1985
the reading room is almost empty,
the fan on long stem stirs air
as a long skirt pushes dust.
Steel ladders reach the racks above
where a lizard freshly hatched from an egg
balances on the spine of Ruskin’s
‘Seven Lamps Of Architecture’,
spasmodically jerks its hind
to shit a dark grain with white pinpoint.

Volumes of ‘The Tattler’ and ‘The Spectator’
stand heavy with dust,
pages brittle like sheets of glass
break on turned by a research scholar
from the Madras U.
The librarian reads Tamil pulp fiction
she picked from a lending library,
printed on cheap newsprint
the pages carry signs of oil
that trickled from her packed lunch.

on the pavement
a peanut seller holds out cones
to passersby.
Occasionally a crow
passes by for a snack
of the roasted nuts.

(This poem is inspired by ‘Bharati Bhavan Library, Chowk, Allahabad’ written by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra.)

Big Tent Poetry ‘New To You’ Day 4

Five Significant Landscapes

An old man sits in
the scant shadow of a jade plant,
like mercury on the steel sky
drops an eagle,
its shadow trembles
on shifting sand,
a scorpion digs in:
thus gold dust settles
over rocks. 

She is the dusk,
she wraps her lover
as scarlet sky hugs the earth.
Twilight, slut,
taunting and voluptuous,
reveals herself.
A dark lake
like fire flares
touched by her.

The palm tree is not tall after all.
I stand on the shore,
my shadow that follows him across the sea
is taller than the tree.
I stretch across shores
reach the skies that carries
the salt on its face.
I am annoyed that
a shark snaps my feet
as I straddle across.

My passion blossoms on the myrtle tree,
the pink petals of its blossoms
steals the colour from hibiscus.
Breast fills as he touches,
pales when he leaves:
I fall from the tree
like a spent star
high in the sky.

Not all the daggers of warriors
nor the arrows tipped with poison
nor the knives of highway robbers
and  beautiful poetry
can sear me
as does his kiss
that singes through drapes of silk.

(This poem stays close to Wallace Stevens ‘Six Significant Landscapes’, only I have transposed the Tamil landscapes from the Sangam Age. Go here to see how the Tamil landscape was classified in the Sangam Age and how this got represented in Tamil poetry.)

Big Tent Poetry ‘New To You’ Day 3

A Winged Saint

A saint floats wings unfurled, swayed, bounced
by currents of lives ahead and behind,
memories travelling from millions of lives
repeating themselves. Grain after grain
flows down the river

under arching bridges that break light as a prism.
A single ray travels down, wedges him above the floor
a little: levitation. I press him down
clip the butter paper wings. Hold my hand
I’ll remind you of the soil you come from.

(This poem comes from Rilke’s ‘As Once The Winged Energy Of Delight’. My 90 year old father-in-law is the winged saint who wants to fly away, I am holding him back. Rilke helps me do that.)

Big Tent Poetry ‘New To You’ Day 2 


Carrying the warmth of the sun, like russet on fire
glows the marigold in the corner of the garden, furls
of organdie petals crushed in a hurry are perked with a jade sepal
that carries fuzz of pubic hair for seeds.

The whisper of cashmere on her throat,
the fragrant tuber rose  blushes mauve on a dark night,
binds like a moist loop in the rises and dips
of the blue georgette that clads her rounded breast.

The emerald kalamkari prints of night queen scatters
in the breeze like an angel’s laughter as cascades of darkness
blow on his face from his lover’s hair,
he covers her as the night does the satiny sky.  

(My poem is inspired by Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Flowers‘. I gasped when I read this poem the first time. In this exquisite poem Rimbaud mentions eight different colours, four kinds of fabric, nine kinds of metals, three kinds of flowers to create a breathtaking kaleidoscope of poetry.

I listed the fabrics, colours and flowers to use in my poem hugely inspired by the extravagance of colours, textures and images used by Rimbaud.For choice of fabrics I used this site.The picture above is a kalamkari, an exclusive and rich tradition of Indian textile art.) 

Big Tent Poetry ‘New To You’ Day 1 

While Bread And Butter-biscuits Are Being Baked

At midnight in the bakery at the corner
while bread and butter-biscuits are being baked
she lies on the cot strung with coirs
a pool of shadow on the warm floor
she looks at the hanging moon heavy like her new breast:
she is all thirteen.

At midnight in the bakery at the corner
while bread and butter-biscuits are being baked
she stands on the balcony watching the dark street below
moon drawing lines between her eyelashes
her breath rising and falling in anticipation for him:
she is all sixteen.

At midnight in the bakery at the corner
while bread and butter-biscuits are being baked
she lies beside him, a fine line of dust on her leg
the pearly night thick with sticky pollen
she swells like the bread at his caress:
she is all nineteen.

(This poem has taken this journey because of Dilip Chitre’s ‘At Midnight In The Bakery In The Corner’. Chitre a bilingual poet wrote in Marathi and English. He wrote his poems in Marathi and translated them to English, the flow from one to the other natural, a continuum .When he read them he infused the Marathi poem and the English poem with the same cadence and feeling that one hardly noticed where one ended and the other began. Go here to read more poems written by Chitre.

I personally like this poem, and when I wrote my poem I appreciated Chitre’s poem even more for the possibilities it offered me. I took it on my own sensual journey. ) 

Big Tent Poetry

Pickling Words

Poetry is composed from lime marinated
and left in a bowl. Words mate, experience orgasm:
ripples of the body rise again and again
to welcome the hardness of the poem that is coming.
The seeds of sex are smeared like salt,
stretching the skin, touch like the underside of breast
where the iambic throbs in the softness there,
words spill into me tingling,
then shrivel like lime in a clear pool of marine.
That’s the way to make pickles.

We Write Poems

The Miracle Maker

I ‘ve learnt to walk on water:
ripples like electricity,
the bounce at the ball of my feet.
I have worked on this several hours
after everyone’s asleep.
On calm moonless nights I walk on the sea 
as you restlessly toss in the bed.
There are several ways to spend a sleepless night.

(Helping my mother-in-law get some sleep every night is close to miracle. She panics as the evening advances, deserts of empty hours spread before her. I sit beside her, hold her hand and gently press it till she slips into shallow valleys of sleep. Walking on water in comparison appears an easier feat, I have quite mastered it.)

Big Tent Poetry