Emden

The year of First World War grandfather bought a house
draining his savings, with no inkling if the property was war worthy.

There were rehearsals of black outs – blankets draped on windows,
lights turned off, vegetable oil lamps flickered with frayed hopes.

The night Emden rained projectiles, for half hour Madras held its breath –
breeze carried smell of kerosene from Burma ships into my mother’s sleep.

Grandfather packed his family into a train bound to Mayavaram,
thence to his village. No he would not join them, who will guard the house?

In the village grandmother pulled out the aerial, tuned the radio everyday.
A month later the static crackled with noise, filled the room with glad tidings.

She rejoiced, snapping her knuckles in celebratory anger –
finally that son of a bitch ship has sunk in some distant shore.

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Fairy Tale

I dreamed of a large fish cresting the waves
the golden shoulders shaking away spray,
sea rising to the sky to kiss the clouds,
a curtain of drapes from heaven to earth.

The metamorphosis is for procreation
but he has been disoriented since he became a fish;
he is searching for his sex organ
among the scales glistening in the sun.

I explore the landscape that maps his consciousness:
coral protrusions, oyster silence of kisses,
algae covering him like secretions. His coming
into me is like stepping into a story book.

The Temple That Solomon Built

The bark knotted and hugged itself in the olive grove,
stout branches were axed and carted to the site.

The temple dwarfed every structure in vicinity,
workers teemed like ants through day and night;

tents to house workers like mushrooms sprung,
officers maintained files of schedule for work;

masons, craftsmen believed a halo followed them, 
that they had to hold in place with humility.

The sculptor held the chisel, felt for contours
on the rough surface, ran his fingers on the wood,

and marked the face of cherubim that lay within.
What no one has seen it was for him to give shape:

how much to slant the eyes, arch the back, stretch
the wings from wall to wall, carve feathers row after row

from memory of birds from his home in Phoenicia
where cormorants pondered over the Mediterranean sea.

Ekphrastic poem : ‘Ekphrasis’ is a writing that comments upon another art form, ekphrastic poetry is a poem inspired by visual art. It is the description of a real or imagined work of visual art. My poem is closer to the latter description.

Solomon took seven years to build the temple to house the Lord. In the inner sanctuary of the temple, he had two cherubims carved out of olive wood. The Old Testament describes so vividly Solomon’s labour of love that the temple structure, the carvings and the gold gilded walls form a visual in our minds. My poem is inspired by this visual.

Day 17 NaPoWriMo – write an ekphrastic poem

Sacrifice

Skin of her baby was smooth, she rubbed almond oil
felt warmth on her fingers. She took her breast
that swelled with milk to his lips, pressed them open gently.

The child got heavier each day, never opened eyes;
the milk overflowed and stained her robe. She held
the child close and rocked in grief, ball of pain in her chest

from the nine months that she bore in her womb watching
the life that was filling in, limbs emerging only to be laid to rest
in an unnamed grave. Forgotten, claiming no lineage and family.

Day 10 – Poem A Day Challenge

“For today’s prompt, write a shady poem. I’ll leave the interpretation of this prompt up to you. It could be a poem that includes shadows and/or shading. It could be about a shady part of town or a shady person. Or well, something else.”

I interpret ‘shade/shady’ as ‘out of light’, ‘in darkness’. The poem is on  the love child of David and Bathsheba, who was cursed to die the seventh day of his birth, for the sins of adultery of his parents. David’s journey of atonement and healing is narrated in the text, the grief of the mother is left for us to imagine and create.

Read the story of David and Bathsheba here and here.

A Story

The wall heaves as he sleeps, presses into his dream where the sky is a blue that he never sees in his city. The dark corners whisper with voices he is familiar, he runs through the corridor where her face appears: his mother on whom he emptied a bucket of fish.

The breeze blows the hair that falls on her neck, he holds her in his dream, pressed close to prevent the room from caving in. He sees her getting crushed as he curls on the bed, refuses to take my hand that I extend to him.

He says the postman is smiling, carries a letter that can kill him. He turns away from me, toward the wall.

Day 6 – Poem A Day, NaPoWriMo

Prompt from Rachel McKibbens : Write a poem that re-tells a family anecdote. If you don’t have one, think of one you’ve heard from someone else. A story that has never left you. Let the last line be what you learned from this anecdote; a power you now have, or a black hole you avoid.  

Lemon Blossoms


The neem tree at the corner of the garden lays out a florescent carpet, the smell of the flower reaches me in my room every time the April breeze tosses them. My room is painted an electric blue, from my table beside the window I cannot see the sky, the arches of coconut fronds keeps me floating in a green cave of light. 

I pull the box from under the table, a coarsely carved wooden box with dust settled in the grooves. I open it and look at the letters neatly folded and tied with a cheap satin ribbon that goes back to twenty years, frayed and faded at the edges.  I undo the knot and open the letters,  I expect my throat to knot with the memory of the walk on the warm beach and the quiet streets as I held his hands. But the seat in the garden of my house warm in the afternoon heat carrying the scent of lemon leaves comes in my mind’s eye, and in the frame are my parents the trusting people who walked with me and have shored away all my memorabilia, each one important, letting me make my pick after they are gone, which one I want to stay with.

I can picture them in my room in the coolness of the bluey afternoon sifting through my books, my papers, photographs; sorting them and keeping them in sari boxes and wooden boxes. They would have handled it carefully, the shattered pieces of glasses of my life that I painfully gathered and put away in the corners of my room to be forgotten and abandoned. They want me to take them, hold them and put them away after making peace, and that is why I am back home.   

Story A Day – Go Home Again

Step Out

I followed the path, cows and sheep on the pasture. I entered the village
and was welcomed by friendly dogs and hens. The woman sweeping her porch
stopped and stared at me and the old man reposing in the shade of the
banyan tree smiled at me. I nodded at them, didn’t stop to talk; the road
opened to paddy fields. I walked on the clumps of soil readied for the next
cycle of cultivation, glad I was finally on the move looking at the trees and
fields and not at the blue floss of clouds on my computer screen.

Write A Drabble for Story A Day