Arundhati Subramaniam


For A Poem, Still Unborn
Over tea we wonder why we write poetry.
Ten people read it, anyway.
Three are committed in advance
to disliking it.
Three feel a vague pang
but have leaking taps and traffic jams
to think about.
Two like it
and wouldn't mind telling you so,
but don't know how.
Another is busy preparing questions
about pat ironies
and identity politics.
The tenth is wondering
whether you wear contact lenses.
And we,
as soiled as anyone else
in a world addicted
to carbohydrates
and conversations without pauses,
still groping
among sunsets and line lengths
and slivers of hope
for a moment
unstained
by the wild contagion
of habit.

 

Where I Live(for Anders who wants to know)
I live on a wedge of land
reclaimed from a tired ocean
somewhere at the edge of the universe.
Greetings from this city
of L'Oreal sunsets
and diesel afternoons,
deciduous with concrete,
botoxed with vanity.
City of septic magenta hair-clips,
of garrulous sewers and tight-lipped taps,
of '80s film tunes buzzing near the left temple,
of ranting TV soaps and monsoon melodramas.
City wracked by hope and bulimia.
City uncontained
by movie screen and epigram.
City condemned to unspool
in an eternal hysteria
of lurid nylon dream.
City where you can drop off
a swollen local
and never be noticed.
City where you're a part
of every imli-soaked bhelpuri.
City of the Mahalaxmi beggar
peering up through
a gorse-bush of splayed limbs.
City of dark alleys,
city of mistrust,
city of forsaken tube-lit rooms.
City that coats the lungs
stiffens the spine
chills the gut
with memory
City suspended between
flesh
and mortar
and faux leather
and delirium
where it is perfectly historical
to be looking out
on a sooty handkerchief of ocean,
searching for God.

 

Home
Give me a home
that isn't mine,
where I can slip in and out of rooms
without a trace,
never worrying
about the plumbing,
the colour of the curtains,
the cacophony of books by the bedside.
A home that I can wear lightly,
where the rooms aren't clogged
with yesterday's conversations,
where the self doesn't bloat
to fill in the crevices.
A home, like this body,
so alien when I try to belong,
so hospitable
when I decide I'm just visiting.

 

Prayer
May things stay the way they are
in the simplest place you know.
May the shuttered windows
keep the air as cool as bottled jasmine.
May you never forget to listen
to the crumpled whisper of sheets
that mould themselves to your sleeping
form.
May the pillows always be silvered
with cat-down and the muted percussion
of a lover's breath.
May the murmur of the wall clock
continue to decree that your providence
run ten minutes slow.
May nothing be disturbed
in the simplest place you know
for it is here in the foetal hush
that blueprints dissolve
and poems begin,
and faith spreads like the hum of crickets,
faith in a time
when maps shall fade,
nostalgia cease
and the vigil end.