Poetry | Anuradha Vijayakrishnan

artwork by Geetanjali Joshi


She breathes and lives skin. Thin long fingers, arched
tendons, thick fingertips
scrubbed pink, swift as dancers gliding, sliding
over everything – notepaper, keyboard,
coffee cups,

tablecloth, cold skin, warm skin, wet skin, bristle
of fine hair on elbow, sag of shoulder, sudden
sharpness, ridges and wrinkles, fold of stomach --
 -- assembling sextuplets of meaning
everywhere. Her fingers read, listen, memorise,
imagine what she might say
in response. Her skin is her arsenal, secret
language, endless organ of pleasure, tingling
tongue savouring gifts of unexpected words, brushing
past pauses and haptic
outbursts, pin prick dots dancing formations
at her, with her, with or without music – and she

bursts into laughter, swells like song
in a silent room.

Kuyili, suicide bomber

For me Kuyili, the old river spits up blood and fire, sends brown waves
of love to wash my fierce charred feet. Stars pause humming and buzzing, a land
falls silent as my final bones prepare

to explode. Birds and animals gather around my sweet scattered name, name
their sweetest songs after me, Kuyili. My shredded battle cry they carry to fearless
mothers, passing villages weeping clouds

of smoke. There are no prayers to be given or received, no other
miracle to be sought. So none

were said as my people sang to me while I slept, bathed me, brought me gifts of
fragrant oil, flaming flowers, ripe fruit. And before I, Kuyili reached for the flames
that bent to my desire, hungry lovers craving flesh

and victory. For Kuyili, the sky remains blood orange remembering how these wars
never end, how screaming mouths will forever scream, this girl too
forgotten, her scorched shadow a faded weapon. Tossed
into the brown, keening river brimming
with birth and fish tailed life.

Old man’s funeral

Who attends an old man’s funeral these days except other
old men, women with sepia faces and ghosts
waiting patiently to take home their own?

Other old men who arrive early as if time is an amiable
companion now, wearing long sleeved white shirts slightly
wrinkled, slightly yellow. Other old men who sit
alone and together in corners farthest from the dead,
smiling at everyone, jumping when a name
is called, pinching each other to check for life, vital
signs, living breath. No one asks them for

They all stare at the dead, trying to remember names, surnames,
stories. Who was married, whose son was a drunk, who was
a cuckold, who died alone. Who might
still know them, draw them into some light, show them
seats where they can hear music, watch young girls
make eyes at handsome young men pretending
to be busy and bold, as sepia rinsed, nut wrinkled
women shift in their chairs, clutch at creaking knees, hips
and backs, gossip about who’s going to be next, who’s
going soon enough.

As ghosts, begin to leave.


What can I write that has not been written
under the stars of an endless night
where music is an infinite cord stretching from
the sky to your neck and back – you are
dangling from the firmament, quite alone
with sapphire oceans, bearded mountain gods beneath
your swinging feet – swaying, long hair spinning,
laughing - every
breath in rhythm with something immeasurable – love
pouring from your eyes, sweeping in and out
of your heart - as the Qawwals raise their voice
and beat to a pinnacle unimagined…

Again and again, songs surge overhead and break
into foam, refrains whirl white tunics around in glorious
mourning, because you are dead and alive, buried
deep in this sand, you are the marker
of your tomb…

Ek pal chain na aaye…

Ya Ali, who will bear me when I fall, bear me
to rest, fingers clutching blank paper, gazing
upward even when sight is immaterial?

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