It’s not a wound.
It was a sore from the beginning,
forever attracting flies
and forever suffused with the soaring heat
of the morning sun.

Out of that sore I write poems.
From there I pray
for sound sleep
even if interrupted by nightmares;
for a temporary grave to which I may return,
where I would lay the flowers myself.

I wear it as a badge of pride,
a badge I can’t take off,
a badge that would never leave me,
so that should anyone
get a glimpse,
their eyes would stretch wide.
To close them normally again
they would need to see a doctor.

A pain.
Yet, it’s the smile of time
that never grows weary;

a red kerchief on the bridge
erected constantly between
my body and the world;

a revolving beacon light that
argues with my existence.


We are going to meet soon.
It will happen, as if by accident,
on a golden morning.
By a rivulet that bestows pebbles on its banks,
we will sit close to each other
on a rock, holding our fishing rods.
While we wait as if we are waiting for fish
we will reminisce, without our voices
breaking, about our first meeting,
about the second and the third,
carefully avoiding the last.
At that moment your voice will not swerve from me.
At that moment my heart will not ask you to explain.
Imagining the gurgling rivulet as our intimate friend,
we will pour out our accounts of many years to her.
We will pretend
as if fish were caught in our hooks at the same time
and will release them at the same time.
As we walk back later to our vehicles,
when a ray of the evening sun strikes,
as if it were our destiny,
and bounces off the back of our hands,
and our eyes, which had not met until then
on that day,
it is
as if a squirrel
dashing between
two adjacent houses in ruins,
that they are still within themselves.

Some things can never be set right

Suddenly one day
the sun, moon and the stars disappear.
After a day like that
the sun sprouts again,
the moon swells anew, and
the stars display their teeth.
But this is not the sky
we are used to.
It is a huge tarpaulin overhead.
Beneath it one cannot even
hang oneself from a tree.

Separation is always but one person’s decision

Of the two
one decides.
They set fire to the bridge.
In a minute
the blaze reaches the sky.
The canal that flows between them
turns into a river, then a sea.
The stranded banks become
separate lands.
Their present inhabitants are not
those who lived there before.
They start speaking
different languages,
languages unrelated
to each other,
languages that will sing
the scars of the folly
into epics.
In a minute,
one person’s decision
has made orphans of both.

In Reply

Who indeed can reiterate
the reply when you ask: “Who?”
Who indeed can intone
the sky as a name?
Even tonight, when the mountain bees
are asleep, the honeycomb builds itself.
Pollen from somewhere fills the derelict house.
Turning its body into a vine, the moon stirs.
Before the animus against humans began to grow,
the chariot of the gods must have moved
just as silently.
Who indeed can impound in a name
the one who changes into
nectar at night, cool shade by day,
and during the forsaken pause in between,
twin hands that cradle me like a lamb?

A Figure of Separation

Who befits a figure of separation better
than the moon that took its own life
by jumping into a river in spate at midnight?
An image of the deceased moon
roams the sky like a ghoul.
It afflicts thought.
It afflicts lovers.
The moon is not at all like the sun,
which sets gradually in the west.
It infiltrates
the hearts of young children,
always like a fresh wound,
a wound that’ll never scab over.
The poets in love with love
sing thousands of songs
to heal it,
but the moon has no ears.
Its constantly changing shape
drives everyone mad.
Its wobbly silken white light
is on a relentless hunt.
You might have touched it;
yet there is no respite
in its frenzy.

Why Do I Proclaim?

The wind has drilled holes
through the bamboo stems in my woodlands
only for you to enter.
Across my sky, clouds are afloat
in subdued colours
only to soak in your hue.
My blue peas, ironwoods and Arabian jasmine,
along with different buds from alien lands,
bloom only to wear your lustre as a glowing flame.
My seas gather into a dark blue stone and repose
like an azure carpet
only as the art of the wave that follows
the fleeting caress of your rhythm.
For escaping the follies of the world
that come chasing after me,
your blessed body is the sole refuge.

It’s only to capture you who eludes words
in words again that I lament thus.
I upend and dump my ignorance
In your path.
Please stage a miracle
in a path without a way
so that I, having nothing, can
turn myself into empty space.

Burnt, But Still

What shall I do if I am besieged
by the dark air that
magnifies mistakes and diminishes love?

Unbeknownst to myself
I’ll make matchsticks of my fingers
and a candle of my body.
With your name in itself as a word
and that word in itself as noble conduct,
I’ll light a glowing flame
unbeknownst to myself.

see how all kinds of birds fly
across a suddenly clear and blooming blue sky
tomorrow and more tomorrows.

Srivalli is a contemporary Tamil poet who has published two critically acclaimed collections of her poems in 2018 and 2019. A third collection is slated for publication later in 2020.

N Kalyan Raman is a Chennai-based translator of contemporary Tamil fiction and poetry.