SHOULD YOU TAKE OFFENCE…
You are the repressed Ram from whom I run away repeatedly. You are Indra busy causing bloodshed. You are Brahma fucking up my fates. You are Manu robbing me of my right to live and learn and choose. You are Sage Gautama turning your wife to stone. You are Adi Sankara driving me to death. You are all the men for whom I would never moan, never mourn. You are the conscience of this Hindu society.
Your myths put me in my place. Therefore, I take perverse pleasure in such deliberate paraphrase.
I am no atheist – I allow everyone an existence. It is just that I struggle with any story that has stayed the same way for far too long. So, my Mahabharata moves to Las Vegas; my Ramayana is retold it three different ways. I am unconventional, but when I choose to, I can carry tradition. That is why I am Mira, Andal and Akka Mahadevi all at once, spreading myself out like a feast, inviting the gods to enter my womb. I am also Karaikkal Ammaiyar, suspected of infidelity for being ravishingly beautiful. Like each of these women, I have to write poetry to be heard, I have to turn insane to stay alive.
Telling my story another way lee me forgive you. Twisting your story to the scariest extent allows me the liberty of trying to trust you. I work to not only get back at you, I actually fight to get back to myself. I do not write into patriarchy. My Maariamma bays for blood. My Kali kills. My Draupadi strips. My Sita climbs on to a stranger’s lap. All my women militate. They brave bombs, they belittle kings. They take on the sun, they take after me.
I choose my words, coarse as the conned Kannagi’s colourful curses, chaste as her breast that burnt down a capital city. This tongue allows me to resist rape, to rescue my dreams. My language is not man-made; it is beyond the white-hot rules of your seminal texts.
My language is dark and dangerous and desperate in its eagerness to slaughter your myths. My lines are feverish with the heat of the bodies you banish in your Manusmriti and Kamasutra. Tamil woman that I am, I do not spare the ageist, classist, sexist Tholkappiyam either. The criticism that I embark on, like your codification and like my cunt, is beyond all culture.
Call me names if it comforts you. I no longer care. The scarlet letter is my monogram. I sew it on everything I wear; I tattoo it into permanence. I strive to be a slut in a world where all sex is sinful. I strive to be a shrew in a society that believes in suffering in silence. I strive to be a sphinx: part-woman, part-lioness, armed with all the lethal riddles.
Come, unriddle me. But be warned: I never falter in a fight. And, far worse, I seduce shamelessly.
because they had established a reputation
for being wild and unrestrained and indiscriminate
when it came to men
because they never cared
who left sediments inside them
because they looked forward to going down
when an opportunity presented itself
because they went dry
when it got muggy and unpleasant
because they froze to frigidity in their beds
when they were in the unlucky lands
of those who had fallen out of favour
because they were rapid in youth
because they mellowed and became maternal
when they met their match
because they followed the jagged, moody course
they chose for themselves
because they loved erosion and erasure
because they threw tantrums and triggered wars
because they lacked secrets and loved catfights
because they held the magic key
to the corridors of power
because they were fond of running off
and running away
the rivers here bear the names
of fallen women exiled to earth
when the heavens found them
too bloody hot to handle
DEAD WOMAN WALKING
i am a dead woman walking asylum corridors,
with faltering step, with felted, flying hail
with hollowed cheeks that offset bulging eyes,
with welts on my wrists, with creasing skin,
with seizures of speech and song, with a single story
between my sobbing, pendulous breasts.
once i was a wife: beautiful,
married to a merchant shifty-eyed.
living the life, until he was lost in listless doubt –
of how, what i gave him was more delicious
than whatever, whatever had been given to me.
his mathematics could never explain
the magic of my multiplying love – this miracle –
like materializing mangoes out of thin air,
like dishing out what was never there.
this discrepancy drove him away:
a new job in another city.
he hitched himself to a fresh and formless wife.
Of course, as all women do, i found out.
i wept in vain, i wailed, i walked on my head, i went to god.
i sang in praise of dancing dervishes, i made music
for this world to devour on some dejected day.
i shed my beauty, i sacrificed my six senses.
some called me mad, some called me mother
but all of them led me here,
to this land of the living dead.
I SHALL SEE MY DARK ONE
What the Prince of Mewar said:
i shall see my dark one in scary silence. i shall watch her
haunting burial-mounds and battlegrounds, i shall watch the
demons dying beneath her dancing feet, the gods rising from
her like soap-bubbles. i shall watch her wandering with her
skull-topped staff, i shall watch her play with a dead man’s head
in her hands. i shall watch, on the sly, my Kali stick her tongue
out when she spots her spouse (like tom-the-cat-at-jerry-the-
mouse). and yet, fear-fragmented, i shall shudder at the sight of
those feisty fresh-blood eyes. for her sake, i shall play the fiddle
while she plays the field. for her sake, i shall forsake my wife.
for her sake, i shall wager my virility.
and yet, for all my love, she Iets me lose.
what shall i make of her?
What Mira sang (given here minus the music of her voice):
i shall see my dark one by moonlight, wearing a yellow sari. his
lewd looks shall stray awhile but settle soon on my sheer silk
blouse, my cleavage zone. silent and sultry-lipped, i shall tempt
the lord, who once robed a royal lady, to disrobe me. hear me
well, townspeople! i shall tease out the lecher in my lover even
if it means that i have to squeeze a stone.
oh, townspeople of untiring tongues! i am married to a man
not man enough to make me woman, make me mother; a
mesmerized powerless prince who petitions for strength to
some demon slayer. don’t speak without witness! ever watched
me hurry through the hymns? ever heard me sing, keep me as
your servant. keep me as your slave. keep me. Krishna, keep me? i am
only a woman wanting to be satisfied. waiting to be satisfied. as
the safest bet, i chose the lord for a lover, as in god for a gigolo.
so, i wait for him on riverbanks. on ungodly nights i wander
with my reluctant songs. scorned by the world i spill my
shame. i even croon such dirty ditties, bur don’t you dare
confront me. don’t blame this on the poison. blame it on my
crude husband. or, better still, blame it on my Krishna. oh, how
he too seeks a monster, a buffalo-blood guzzling devil goddess
Kali. not for him my deft art, this delicate artfulness.
what shall i make of him?
what shall we make of them?
Dharma artha kama
word-plowers war-mongers womb-raiders
Fifteen, lost in a room
Full of children learning Hindi poetry
For an approaching exam. In a nasal bass
The teacher speaks of some besotted bird
That watches the moon every moment of the night…
I stand up and ask,
What does that bird do on new moon nights?
Peeved by what she thinks is impudence,
The teacher says the bird watches my face.
The class turns all at once, stares at me.
Ashamed, I shrink, I sit.
Twenty-two, lost in any space,
I restlessly seek the strength
Of his shoulders and I hunt
Like a hungry beast to catch a glimpse
Of my coal-black lover, and I crave to look once more
Into his limitless eyes where I sank and never surfaced.
As I desolately count each passing hour,
I become that moon-gazing bird on new moon nights,
I sing the saddest songs of all time, I never ask questions…
She thought she was dying – ants crawled
under her flaking skin, migraines visited her
at mealtimes, her tender-as-tomato breasts
bruised to touch, her heart forgot its steady beat.
Floundering at forty she twisted safety pins
into spirals, chewed on pencil-ends, tore down
calendars, became a hurricane about the house.
That wetness, with its lunar reek, never came.
Her monthly drip had disappeared.
Her no-money man was back home by then –
Ditched and duped by his dancer mistress.
She forgave that bitch, buried the bad blood
between, gave him her anklet of rubies to sell
and begin some business with. He went.
A week later, she received his body bag
With the executioner’s seal on the toe tag.
She stormed into the palace, flung her other anklet
at the bloody throne. The royals too saw the red.
The king died of shame, the queen died of shock.
On the edge, Ms Militancy bayed for more blood.
Vending vengeance, she made a bomb
of her left breast and blew up the blasted city.
Long after that land had turned to ashes,
the rest of her plucked breast bled.
Watching that breast sprout back from its roots,
the lone woman learnt to outgrow her loss.
When the scars no longer showed and
the faraway sea could be smelt between her legs,
she dissolved in a mist of aftersmoke.
Men are afraid of any woman who makes poetry and dangerous
portents. Unable to predict when, for what, and for whom she
will open her mouth, unable to stitch up her lips, they silence her.
Her pet parrot developed an atrocious fetish for the flesh of
sacrificial goats, so Kulamaayi was bolted within a box and
dropped in the Kaveri.
She teased and tormented his celibacy, so Miss Success-Village
was thrown into a well by a wandering socialite-godman.
She was inaccessible and unattainable, so Durga was put in an iron
trunk that settled on a riverbed and even the men and women
who tried to approach her were informed in a prerecorded voice
that she was out of reach and network range and coverage area.
She was an outcast who had all the marks of a fiery orator who
would some day run for parliament, so a nail was driven into her
head on the instructions of her brahmin fiancé and her coffin was
set adrift in a wailing river.
She was black and bloodthirsty so even Kali found herself shut
inside her shrine.
They were relatively low-risk, so most other women were locked
up at home.
THE BELT-BOMB GIRL’S SUICIDE NOTE
The King had sent captains of the army…
Their sins and their lawlessness, I’ll remember
No more. I have blotted out, like a thick cloud,
Your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.
My strength is made perfect in weakness,
There is but a step between me and death.
I’ll be exalted among the nations,
I’ll be exalted in the earth.
I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.
Today, you’ll be with me in Paradise.
I am the way. Do business till I come.
I am the way. Follow me.
Where there is no talc-bearer. strife ceases.
THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH
This is the middle way, this is the eightfold path
This is the way to the end of suffering.
Right view is the precursor of the entire path.
Right view provides the right practice.
Right view leads to a virtuous life.
Right view comes at the end of the path.
Right view requires you to know
that the dying always look up at the sky
and therefore you must get ready to shell hospitals.
Birth is suffering, aging is suffering,
Sickness is suffering, death is suffering,
Sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief
and despair are suffering,
Association with the unpleasant is suffering,
Separation from the pleasant is suffering,
Not to get what one wants is suffering.
For the instant cessation of their suffering
Right intention requires the carpet bombing
Of the fleeing masses.
Right speech is about the absence of wrong speech.
Abstain from falsehood, abstain from slander,
Abstain from harsh speech, abstain from idle chatter.
Speech can break lives and start wars,
so it is best to pull out of the peace talks.
Right action means refraining from unwholesome deeds
that occur with the body as their main means
of expression. Do not take life,
Do not take what is not given,
Do not indulge in sexual misconduct.
The celibate Buddha and his monks
never spilled any semen and it is your bounden duty
to make up for that by raping every woman in sight.
The Buddha mentions five kinds of livelihood
which bring harm to others that must be avoided.
The first tells one to avoid dealing in weapons
so please get India and China to gift those toys.
Right effort requires a wholesome form of energy.
Dispelling dullness calls for a special effort
to arouse energy through the visualization
of a brilliant ball of light or reflection on death.
For desire, a remedy of general application
is meditation on impermanence to knock away
the underlying tendency to cling.
To get rid of dullness let light into the lives
of your enemies through luminous bombs
and to get rid of their desire for one another
bulldoze their bunkers and this will be the last time
they cling to each other.
The first step in right mindfulness involves
the contemplation of the body and the last step
in the mindfulness of the body involves a series
of cemetery meditations which necessitates dreaming
of death and decomposition of the human body.
Meditate on the mass graves in Chemmani and Mullivaikkal.
Right concentration implies seclusion
from sensual pleasures and reining in the unruly mind.
Right concentration is achieved through training
so work hard to estimate the exact amount of napalm
Or white phosphorous for sky-showers
That will grant nirvana to the Tamil People,
For blessed are they who get to breathe
The Laughing Buddha’s Laughing Gas.
WHY SHE WRITES OF HER LOVE
~ with submissive indrawn breath on nights that smell of freshcut red, she
writes of a love to which her language denied even words ~
love, he squeeze-spliced into seven types
and threw the two crooked corners away.
It.col. grammar mapped moods on zones –
Meet and mate by mountains, wait within
forests, sulk in pastures, pine away close
to the coast, and desert in deserts. by order.
what came of the margins missing in action?
at first the colonel outlawed unrequited love.
labelled it defective, subnormal, unfit for men
who were men. then at last he crushed
the red-hot rebellion of the rainbow border,
never letting May mix with December, or
the rich with the poor, or the high with the low.
every mismatch was malady.
it was no country for old men or old women.
sugar daddies and cougars were banished and
the hunchbacked and the handicapped found
themselves in this lacklustre blocklove list.
the rulebook forbade poets to patronize them.
no history – no hyperlink – no tv – no twitter
no news of this love being refused redemption.
this love, for twisted souls; this love, the lost cause.