Anna Sujatha Mathai – The Lovers of Rakhigarhi, Painted Ladies

The Lovers of Rakhigarhi


How separate, yet how close –

The couple at Rakhigarhi.

Time has not estranged them,

They who were lovers once.

She, racing through forests, at sunrise,

His image leading her on.

I’m coming, she cries, as birds

Call amid the tall trees.

She lets loose her wild hair

Which flows right down to her knees.

Her wildly beating heart,

Racing with mad abandon

Towards his possessive hold.

The way he parts her hair

And looks deep into her eyes,

That look for which she’d gladly die.

She looks around, and finds him

Lying in a pit, his eyes unseeing.

Unhesitatingly, she jumps,

But not close enough to lie by him.

Their hands cannot quite touch,

Though heads are tenderly turned

towards the other.

Skeletons, adamant lovers,

Five thousand years have not obliterated

Their obstinate desire.




Painted Ladies


The extraordinary journey of the swallow,

Returning to those who love them,

Is achieved by the inner compass.


Caterpillars and butterflies

Are one and the same,

Painted ladies, battling windy weather,

Flying north and south,

That journey informed by the caterpillar,

Heading home.


And do not miss the refractory light

Of the polar night,

for any lesser sight.


That transformation

of the skies

Is beyond all imagination.

Perhaps the tundra

in its tumultuous existence,

Cactii blooming in the dark

like dactyls

Vies with that light-shattering



Didn’t he say, on that last day,

In that Northern land –

If I hadn’t found you,

I would have been searching –


Or, you are like the flower

That comes in the summer,

And returns in the winter.


Anna Sujatha Mathai has been writing poetry in English since the 70s and has authored five collections. Widely anthologized, many of her poems have been translated into European, and Indian languages. In 2018, the Feminist Group, Women Empowered-India (WE), conferred on her their First Kamala Das Poetry Prize. She lives in New Delhi, India.