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Anna Sujatha Mathai

Anna Sujatha Mathai

Boat. courtesy - bigfoto.com

A Small Death -- A Small Joy

A small death is
in my mind.
A Sufi dervish dancing,
wildly beating drums,
my heart’s manic hurricane.
A small joy came
circling into my
Seized upon, it soon 
                took me over.
Small death, immense birth, 
        life’s foetus, perfectly moving
to its absolution. 

Goddess Without Arms

My poetry didn’t come
a perfect flower,
every petal proudly placed.
It was never a goddess
                rising from the waters
seated serenely on a shell, 
or emerging from a lotus
                all her arms gracefully extended,
a Canova Venus or a Saraswati,
resplendent in her plenitude,
                certain of her sovereignty.

No. it grew painfully,
                        somewhat blind,
        a few stray petals here and there,
                more like wounds.
But day by day,
it gathered grace,
        arms, limbs, eyes…


It seemed to me that families
                held each other’s dreams down,
That families blocked the stairs
                that led outwards,
Strangling the infant stranger 
                                at birth,
Destroying the smell of flowers
                for ever,
That families were forces,
Seas, waves, fields,
                where planting
Went on quite mechanically,
Tides, rhythms, pulls,
With no choice granted.

But now, alone, and without family –
I see that families are held by
                Secret bonds
Whether of love or hate.
Families are the steps that
                lead out of the well,
The way down to the river
Which leads to the sea.
Families are boats where
                strangers cling together,
Saying, ‘You are familiar, so familiar,
I’ve known you all my life.
Hold tight. Don’t let us drown.’


Pigeons are dancing on my roof –
the sunshade that shelters my balcony.
They’re drumming a tattoo of desire, 
webbed feet slipping on the fibre-glass
adding a frenzied note to the slippery game.
A couple of crows add to the clamour,
harsh voices forecasting visitors,
Polonius—like, they mouth ancient platitudes.
Pigeon-feet and crow voices join,
Both kattha and hallelujah chorus!
Now death and desire are coupling,
as I lie huddled alone in my bed,
aware of a tumult of feathers.
Icarus, with gray and black wings,
is making his first ever flight 
from the launching pad of my shade.

Dreams, wings, melting in the sun,
vivid, alive for a moment,
now dashed to pieces on the rocks below,
All, all os, pilgrims of the skies.

On the Beach at Baaga

The fisermen cast rheir nets
                into the living sea
                and churn out death.
No death is painless
                or without blood,
for the white fish are
                bleeding out their lives
                on the white sands,
haemorrhaging soundlessly
                as their guts rip
and they gasp their last
                breath of the sea’s foam.

On the sands of Baaga
                where the bay converges
                with the red ore hills,
the sun dips with violence
                every evening.
But it is not the sun, 
                not the sun
but the world that is wheeling,
quite indifferent to the fish,
                the people, the living things,
that are caught in its crevices
                        and fissures.

No, it is not the sun that is
                bound upon night and day
                and ceaseless alternation.
The sun has only the memory of flame
                and for centuries has watched
                the earth dance like a clown
                        upon one foot,
someday it will drop and die,
                laughing, laughing madly.

On the beach of Baaga
                a hippie woman reels
holding a small golden baby, 
dropping him, and gazing out 
                        upon the sea,
remembering lovers that have left,
leaving her only with
                        the cry of a child.
Lonely eyes, wild and dazed,
                        watch the sun set
and the baby knows again
its mother’s alternating moods 
of warmth and cold rejection.

Oh the fish are dying
                on the beach at Baaga,
The sting—ray sleeps with
                the small gentle fish
and all things are equal in death.

But the fishermen have
                warm eyes and full stomachs
They have salted the fish,
                and are ready for the night voyage.
Small boats on the enormous sea,
with some luck they will see
the daylight creep in.


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