Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mi Casa

The crows are cawing the funeral dirge:
A requiem for these gables.
The bricks tumble out of the windows,
Down the flaky spotted cheeks.

The crowbars come down,
Again and again.

A single little red beetle
Has crawled slowly but unharmed
Out of the ruins of my house.


This is a precious pain.

To know that I am not dreaming,
I need a pinch that breaks the thin skin on my arm.
This is that pain.

This is a fragile pain.

To relieve it I must try
To smile and sparkle when I can't,
So I can snuff it out.
But I mustn't.

If I do, its beautiful nacreous shell will burst
And droplets of pain will traverse the air
And be lost to me forever.

This is a fragile precious beautiful pain.


There are two blue veins that run
Riverine on your fair forearm: among the forests.

They are the sole obsession of
The twin stars that shine on the horizon
Streaked by the peachy fingers of my dawn.

The rain clouds have smoked up the skies
And a million painful ants are crawling on the ground
Among the worms and the maggots and other filth.

There are so many faces assembled here
And their mouths are all weirdly the same.

There are one hundred clones of you.
There are one hundred different clones of me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


The sunlight washing down
Amber glistens in my blind eye
My hands sinuously
Wrap around any facts
They can glean.

I am only ravenously hungry
For dinners that are well served
I am no desperate Saharan
Willing to feed on any mirage
I can sink my fangs into.

I know.


There’s something I need to tell you...
I promise I’ll be beating around the bush,
So when can I see you for pi seconds square?

The small layered rounds of dough grow golden
When fried in the oil and fished out with perforated ladles
So they can be dropped into thick syrup and then bathed
in viscous milk laced with slivered almonds.

Go talk to your pies squared, why bother with me?
I’m jealous of every pie that catches your eye
I hate you and your attention that I vie for.
The cows are coming home raking the dust
As they voluptuously and curvaceously undulate
Over those delicate legs and enormous hooves,
Smelling of many ideas: revered and rich.

All things that taste so sinful on the tongue
Must be savoured in appropriate settings
Go down the road past the mounds of dung
Turn around full circle and come back.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Karaikal Ammaiyar, courtesy The Hindu

The ground is damp with liquid marrow--
Skeletal ghouls with sunken eyes
jostle and elbow--
looking furtively around them
extinguishing the fires
with gleeful hearts
they eat half-burned corpses--
There, in that menacing forest
holding fire in his hand
dances our beautiful lord.

(Vidya Dehejia, Antal and Her Path of Love: Poems of a Woman Saint from South India, 1990)

Almost Famous Ammaiyar

In some chola bronzes of Nataraja, one can see a small emaciated ghoulish figure, striking a pair of cymbals in horrid glee, while the deep sockets of her eyes burn with a feverish excitement. This Karaikal Ammaiyar (‘the mother of Karaikal’), with her short matted hair flaming behind the skull that is her face, forming a counter to the supple lissom beauty of the Dancing Lord, is among the 63 Nayanars: the saint-bards who form the Tamil Shaivite Bhakti Tradition.

“…These new groupies! They don’t know what it is like to love one stupid song, or one band, so much that it hurts!” This dialogue from Almost Famous has stuck in my head, and the all-overwhelming passion it indicates seems to me the spirit of the film. And it might as well be Ammaiyar’s words to those other two female Bhakti poets : Meera and Andal. Not for Ammaiyar the sweet whirlings of Meera, or the refined urbane poetry of Andal. Ammaiyar went to crazy extents in throwing over the confines of societal propriety; went wild in her love.

Nor did she fall for the city gods, guardians of the fat bourgeoisie, protectors of the soft ways of civilised life. She gave up her ties to the world for the Dancer of the Cremation Grounds. She asked Shiva the God of the Funeral Ashes to perish her worldly flesh, take away her youth, so she may join his mad entourage watching his frenzy in the cremation grounds: his accompaniment a weird tattoo of ghouls playing on skulls, the cremation fires his limelight, and the clicking of garlands of bones; his applause.

Her Passion was outside the bounds of society, and in the no man’s zone of near-insanity, defying all charges of conformism. Today she might be banging heads at a Megadeath concert. And Ammaiyar was quite a rocker in her own right, to use the word in the sense of the gods idolised by Almost Famous. She was a wild Janis Joplin to Andal’s sweet Joan Baez and Meera’s bluesy Joni Mitchell. The more things change, the more the cycles of Conformity run along the same worn out tracks: Conformity, Rebellion, Non Conformism, Anti-Conformism that to one’s bitter chagrin turns out to be Conformism again, only to a different set of norms.

The theme of a Hurting Love is also universal, linked with wanting to burning short but bright, an illogical belief in some ideal, and the willing to sacrifice so much for it. People spend all their lives looking for such love, such a cause. And how lucky are those select few like Ammaiyar who find that cause and go insane in its ecstasy. If one ignores the religious angle (as one must, to respect the agnostics and the atheists), then is there really all that much difference between the idealism and rebellions of the Flower Children and Rock and Roll, Wilde’s decadent aesthetes, the Romantics, Martin Luther’s Reformers, and the Bhakti Bards singing of their God?

on seeing Almost Famous and reading the Periya Puranam, in the space of one weekend.

Monday, July 24, 2006

padmasana sthitam

was doing this 4 years back. feels good to come full circle.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Pot

A pot has been planted here,
out in the open where the paths meet
and faceless strangers donot usually
feel the need to acknowledge the presence
of other sapient beings.

It is glazed white on a gray base
with delicate flecks of brown and black
marking the spots where the wood shavings
carefully burnt to charcoal
- birthmarks the pot carries
from the fiery womb.

Such a pot would ordinarily be
on a white shelf with its own subtle spotlight
while the people going past
would finger the discreet tag
it wore around its neck,
murmuring at the 4 digit figure they read.

Some hand brought it here
where it cheerfully stands with
the mud staining its pristine base
and the ants and cockroaches
and beetles with nacreous wings
climbing its smooth walls.

We have heard of Urinals in art galleries
but even Duchamp could not concieve
of such a shattering blow
to the very foundations of Art
nor compare to such understanding
of its purpose.

FOAM (from the beaches of pondicherry 2)

She opened her eyes drowsily and looked straight into a hundred and twenty crore staring eyes. They were arrayed ad infinitum to either side of Her, while She hovered above the centre of the line, at the point of origin of the world, at the centre of the Ocean of Milk. The foam of the Ocean was the colour of her skin, the precise colour of that pale golden cream which rises on patiently boiled milk. The ocean was still frothing, though the churning had paused momentarily. Below Her was craggy Mandara, below that was the ocean , and within its depth She sensed two ancient reptilian Eyes.

The winds began to blow, vying among themselves to bring to Her delicate porcelain nose the best of the fragrances they had gleaned in their roaming over the vast empty expanses of the universe. Of them, She chose one, a fragrance that was light, pink, and carried with it a puzzling sense of being on the point of decadence, the rot that was just about to set in from over-ripeness. At once a large pregnant bloom opened its pink petals under Her, and She sat back on its domed centre.

The Apsaras, themselves newly born of the foam that birthed Her, appointed themselves Her maids-in-waiting. They hurriedly picked a hundred more lotuses and wove them into garlands to lay about Her golden neck. The lord of the waters brought up gold and kuruvinda rubies from the depths of his dominions. The gold he first drew into thread, then wove it to make Her raiment, setting it with the rubies and stringing yet more of the gems to lay with the lotuses about Her shoulders and arms.

The Elephant Clouds came riding upon the winds. From their trunks they rained Purity over her head. It washed down inside Her, glowing and fiery, becoming one with the creaminess of ocean foam and lotus petals. It infused Her till it became Her essence. It was then She truly awoke. Lakshmi. The name She would privilege above all Her others. The wall She did not know existed dissolved now. She saw the universe within Herself, and realizing it, became the universe itself, its equal owner.

In that universe lay the Ocean of Milk, frothing from the churning. At the eye of that giant whirlpool was a tiny circle of peace where He lay. He was the equal owner of the universe, lying on a Snake bed, while at the same time He was a hoary turtle bearing Mandara on His back. On His chest shone the Kaustubha. Within it She saw Herself, mirrored as in the bowl of a spoon, and She knew She had always been there, since the beginning of time.

* * * *

Elsewhere, out of the foam of Oceanos, a pink seashell arose, carrying a vision of Beauty on its iridescent back. Zephyr blew his soft breath upon Her, and Her hair blew up in gentle brown ringlets, in perfect Boticellian fashion. The waves of the ocean lapped at Her little feet and She archly moved them closer together, poised on one gracefully bent knee. While the Graces rushed up to give Her the golden garments they had woven, Venus-Aphrodite had a nagging sense of Déjà Vu.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

From the beaches at pondicherry

I know of many stratagems the initiated employ
to deal with shifting sand.

I dig my toes in
wiggling the sand out to make space
and feel the sand move past as it ebbs
gently abrading my ankles
and covering my feet.

I let my feet lie soft on the sand
with a film of water under my soles
and let it naughtily tickle my skin
while it squirms and tries
to throw me off balance

Then I see the water around my calves
and the foam clears slowly, bursting bubble
after bubble and it is so clear
that I can see the small white seashells
and grains of sand floating in it,
happy to stop where it lays them.

And then I know
that I may defy the sands
but I cannot in my heart
deny the waters.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Verse Libre 2

and sometimes punctuation can be quite the tyrant.

thank god for verse libre


A white pebble, that looks like marble
Has been dyed a tepid orange by red soil dampened by rain.

One layer of small yellow flowers with brown anthers
That has been trampled quite mercilessly into the hot tar
Lies below a second layer because the tree refused to give up.

Three pink bubble gum wrappers form a scalene triangle
With silver insides that glitter shyly from behind
The wrinkled blue man with his arms folded over an inflated rubber chest.

A butter yellow dead butterfly
That has one wing torn out of its back
And the other ragged wing lies quite still.

Your toes that have a milky white crescent
At every end of a smooth pink rounded square of nail.

And my eyes.

Verse Libre

I cannot write poetry. I think in prose. But I like sometimes to break my prose up into individual packets of words, divided for rythm or effect.

thank god for verse libre.


It’s going to rain: I can always tell.

First my heart beats quite differently
It is not beating in customary staccato
I could sing unnecessarily complicated love songs to its rhythm.

My eyes are open normally
And I can smile from within while I walk
And not scowl, as I do when it is too sunny
Or stare blankly, as when it is dark.

Then there is the smell wafting in the air
That fills every nook and cranny till it lies thick against my skin
And stoutly denies any rumours

Of ignoble origins from microorganisms.

Go ahead and Rain happiness
On my blessed head.