About Uma

Writer and artist from Chennai, South India.

The Time Capsule


There is the path covered by rubble
excavated from a hole a perfect circle in the
middle of grassland the smell of fresh earth
shored up as a wall along the scarred sidewalk

The arrow points backward from the burning chute
to the blind end of the street lay the enclosed garden
you vaulted the wall to see her tend Pongam tree
hold in the cup of her feet seeds brushed red-purple

You have reached this far not knowing if the river
you enter this minute there was a trickle from
a slab of ice in the mountains two days ago or
a channel of discontinuous disembodied element

The time a butterfly folds wings divide four times
it’s the journey a snail dreams in the ocean bed
of nautilus slants vision from deep water flooding
through porous eyes to enfold the history of the earth.


Birds fall from the sky

The chances are the dust from the hermitage
outside the city

be carried in the bowl of time. When close
to history the hair on the skin

moves to the light from the tunnel of past.
A monk goes to the forest

learns ways to live a hundred years. Covered
in meters of matted hair

he arrives at the large mansion, speaks of
the prince who renounced

kingdom, wife, child. Nails and bones
from his emaciated body

are stripped to cells of hunger and thirst.
Interned urns excavated

from burial site carry the scent of ripe pear
dimples of yellow-green

like sodden leaves during monsoon. I choose
a chamber to sit in silence

the open window and trunks of lined trees
the iridescent sky.

Is there a need to clean the floor, the sharp
whispers of the broom

in the quietness? The beaked Palash flowers
are ready to fall.

Birds with extended necks and throbbing throats
alert for flight.

Story of the Earth (rendered by a geologist)

When Time is young and a day spans six hours
I see the moon ever so often. Dizzy with the
spectacular sunrise I write a poem, six couplets
three written in daylight three in candlelight.

Volcano hisses islands away, waves fill craters
left by raining debris. When ash covers the sky
I dig scrawny seeds that refuse to sprout, feed on
sooty weeds, happy for these that nourish me.

Drops of water in the lake, spikes of gold on rocks
stretch marks on my thighs are from a star exploding
in emptiness. The dying fire impregnates me
air condenses in a cool embrace to quake my thirst.

The Full Moon: A Love Poem


You favor one side when you sleep
lean into the silence of the whitewashed wall
crumples of paint dust a veil of blanket.

I carry quietness in the hollow of my chest
slip into the folds of night, the sleeve of silver
under the bridge of your even breathing

worrying about the trespass of your space
but the light of the full moon emboldens me
to take the moistness of your palms in mine.

Photo from the Web

The Body Spans Three Landscapes

I realize I can walk miles backward
not once glancing over the shoulder.

Let fatigue rest in the intersections of limbs
there will always be someone to spread

ash for the plants, turn soil with bone meal.
I run out of fingers to count the ones that fell

remembrance jagged with spikes of pain –
each three parts water one part air.

Thoughts are the matter I cannot grasp
hence I drown in the depths of the ocean

where the slop is churned every hundred years
to a speck on a leaf that floats to the bay

into the jade-colored estuary at the lip of the land.
Sand sifts through webs of interlaced fingers

flounces as dreams a clear shade of blue
the mornings always misty on the glass.

I can feel the temperature of all things
the love crusted like glazed pot, lightning

that singes the grass clumps in the yard
knots in the breasts with hardened milk.

What I covet grows wings, breaks free
flies to the dark cavern to hang feet up

for nine months and grow flesh, muscles
in the womb deposited with memories

from three landscapes – the river town
the city by the sea, the crowded metropolis.




A Letter

I write to you sitting in the core of a large tree
ringed with silence.
I have fit into a plinth small to hold the kernel
of your breath.
Sometimes I think your voice has an aquatic form
over my moist skin.
Light from the street pools in your palm curled in
the hollow of my neck.
The leaves fall on the sand coppered by light along
lines of hunger.
Urge grows to hold the red distilled from plumeria
against your throat.
My desire stretches to fill the space between
two grass stalks.

Remembering Mother

It takes two hands to clap
silence languishes in a vacuum.
She presses her elbows on the table
gets up to leave, a spring flows calmly
across her face as fury wrecks me red.

The seasons unfurl in her chest
monsoon curls the edges of her hair
that flutter in lazy scrolls
the skin on her waist a gentle turmeric
in the moistness of summer.

I knock around the cave of her silence
fly above the landscape of her stillness
scan the contours of her body dip and rise
as I hold breath at the nine gateways
in an attempt to douse the fire.

She is the water drop on a lotus leaf
no grease marks on the stove
clothes folded away, dishes rinsed
on the sink. Being born afresh
is like dying in the right sense.