Balancing act

Forsake this day for another.
Replace this sorrow
by a different sadness.
Substitute this betrayal
with yet another.
To emerge from this grief,
suffer one more.

When I realise
that my life is only
a balancing act,
the shame of it
eats into me.

One day crawls
over another –
like a worm,
leaving no traces.

Let the cobwebs gathered
over the past be unsettled
just a bit on the day before.
May the present day dawn
amidst a terrible sneezing fit.

(“Samanam” in Tamil)


started falling
only a short while ago
on the broken wall.

During a distant journey,
in the past, a different rain
had tagged along with me
like an umbrella.

For travellers
unable to turn into nomads
on trails
that hold no pathways,
returning home must be
their final dream.
As the whispering doorways
open out joyfully,
stranded outside
the window are:

a forest;
a city filled with
noisy tumult, spinning
at a distance beyond reach;
bruises left on the back
of a gust of wind that descends
on the dust-coated ground
and stretches to ease
its torso and limbs.

In the painting I had left
hanging on the wall,
I now find a brand new nest,
a bird and a few tiny eggs:
in sum, a life quite grand.

Fearful that the flow
of my lonesome tears
might inundate the bird’s nest,
I hold them back
for a later time.

(Untitled in Tamil)


A piece of the loneliness
that I’ve brought along
from the desolate street.
A lamp that drips light
in my room, where
the darkness roams adrift

A suspicious creature
lurking in the courtyard
beyond the living room.
A lover, whispering
from within
my tightly worn underclothes.

in a forbidden space.

A beast, stirring awake
to birdcalls dropping
endlessly from the trees.

And I,
the waking beast’s undying love.

(“Thanimai” in Tamil)


I didn’t know you had come.
I don’t know too whether
the visitor is really you.
Have you come from the past or a dream?
I don’t know that, either.
No voice, no body

no love, no lust –
and yet, your visit
during the hours between
the incessant delight of the wind
and the endless blossoming of wildflowers,
from the direction whence
the fragrance of the night wafts in,
occurs and endures like repression.
there’s nothing here akin to a parched field
that might be ready to receive you.

(“Kaadhal” in Tamil)

A death that lingers still

Today is the anniversary
of a day of mourning.
This cruel day has curled up
like a sick pup
under the table.
It has mingled with the dregs
at the bottom
of an unwashed coffee cup.
Tear up this day’s existence
as it pulses through the calendar.

Proclaim to yourself:
this day is counterfeit.

Drive away
the sun that struts and swaggers
beyond the open balcony.
Eat the food
that’s left over from last night;
it will help you to pretend
that you’re still among the remains
of the previous day.

Let the day’s newspaper languish outside your door.

Get your dates mixed up.
Confuse with your memory
the murder that took place
on this day many years ago
and the grief it still evokes.

Wipe those clammy memories
with tissue paper
and throw it in the trash.
When the house lizard
hunting its prey o n the wall
runs out of insects,
feed this day to the lizard.
To prevent a death from recurring, to save that man,
make this day disappear
or put an end to its life:
it’ll be quite enough.

(“Kadandhu Selladha Maranam” in Tamil)

All poems translated from the Tamil by N Kalyan Raman.