Two poems by Arundhathi Subramaniam

 
 

    When Landscape Becomes Woman

 

I was eight when I looked
through a keyhole

and saw my mother in the drawing room
in her hibiscus silk sari,

her fingers slender
around a glass of iced cola

and I grew suddenly shy
for never having seen her before.

I knew her well, of course --
serene undulation of blue mulmul,
wrist serrated by thin gold bangle,
gentle convexity of mole
on upper right arm,
and her high arched feet --
better than I knew myself.

And I knew her voice
like running water --
      ice cubes in cola.

But through the keyhole
at the grownup party
she was no longer
geography.

She seemed to know
how to incline her neck,
just when to sip
her swirly drink
and she understood the language
of baritone voices and lacquered nails
and words like Emergency.

I could have watched her all night.

And that’s how I discovered
that keyholes always reveal more
than doorways.

That a chink in a wall
is all you need
to tumble
into a parallel universe.

That mothers are women.

 

from Love Without a Story, Westland Amazon, India, 2019; forthcoming from Bloodaxe Books, UK

 


 

    The News

 

Learn something new every day,
say the wise ones

and so, we try.

The news today
is that there’s no one
at the Champs Élysées,

no one
at the Gateway of India,
no one at all
in the spice market of Istanbul,
the souk at Aleppo,

that the great theatres
and pulsating green rooms
of the world
lie plunged in darkness,

that pigeons hover
like suspended confetti
above the piazza of San Marco,

that no one’s ordering
double macchiatos
in East Village cafés,

that a woman walking back
to her village from Telangana
died of starvation
in a Chhattisgarh forest.

Her news
(and it isn’t particularly new)

is that we’re always eleven miles
away from home.

 

originally published in The Indian Express, May 2020

 

Arundhathi Subramaniam

About Arundhathi Subramaniam

Arundhathi Subramaniam is the award-winning author of twelve books of poetry and prose. Her most recent collection, 'Love Without a Story', published in India in 2019, is forthcoming from Bloodaxe Books, UK. Her previous collection, 'When God is a Traveller', won the inaugural Khushwant Singh Prize, and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize.