Poetry | ‘Chennai in Frames’ & ‘Sestina’ | By Saranya Subramanian

Saranya Subramanian’s poems have gasps-and-wonder-in-punctuations taken from places like Bombay and Chennai or grown from the life of Perumal Murugan and his interiority. Such variety!

Chennai in Frames

Thatha’s Ambassador croaking at us
Heavy air carrying sweat and grime
Sandalwood’s scent peeling off walls
Winter trips to Madurai by bus
Heat washed away by Marina’s sweet lime
Beach memories packed in volleyballs 

A backyard of our sleeping cricket bats
Red earth keeping warm Tulsi’s feet
Dinner on the terrace dipped in starlight
The grumbling generator housing rats
Tamil Soaps forming our home’s heartbeat
Downstairs toilet burping through the night

Comic books replaced with medicines
Laughter: once family, now visitor
Walking sticks: the new pillars of the house
Cancer taking his body, not his grin
Solemn-looking, weepy mourners
Patti’s tears filling wells, saving droughts

Dirt standing where home once was, once divine,
me standing in Chennai, but seemingly stuck in the wrong paradigm.


Sestina
For Peumal Murugan

He licked his thoughts along
the envelope seal, shut it tightly
and posted it to no one. Inside it
were ideas we’d never see—sharp
pebbles that cause multiple ripples
over still waters. 

It is sinful, they said, water
must reflect a frozen image along
its banks; it must be calm, devoid of ripples,
to show calmness in return. His tightly-
clutched pen was snatched. Their sharp
swords granted him a life without it

and left him with a blank page. But it
was deceptive, like how the surface of water
bodies hide fields of algae below. The page’s sharp
border fell into a coastal shelf. Peppered along
its bottom were baby wordlings, tightly
packed and jostling against one another. Ripples

were birthed from this chaos; every ripple
sprung from a crowning word as it
locked arms with other words tightly,
peeking up from underwater.
There was no stopping them. Crawling along
the coast, they appeared as sharply

dressed sonnets and sestinas, sharp
enough to slice through sand. Ripples
met with a lyric here, marching along
to the beat of rebellion, a ghazal there, in all its
glory, glorifying the gods of fire and water
written out of law. Tightly

bound, they were the Songs Of A Coward, tightly
tied together in cowardice. Their sharp
melodies caused creases on still waters,
as they united to form one fearless ripple
that grew into a tidal wave. It
ran towards the shore, tiptoed along

its path and crawled along the prison walls that tightly
shut the writer within it. Each song’s sharp teeth
gnawed off his chains. A ripple trembled into roaring waters.

Perumal Murugan was to be read again.

Saranya Subramanian is a 22-year-old literature aficionado, based in Bombay. She spends her time singing to herself and watching Madhubala videos (sigh!). And she writes because, well, it’s all that she can really do. 

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