Sangam House



FOUR POEMS by N. Sukumaran

The Scent of Granny

A trembling voice
will enter the house
calling ‘Baboo…’

enters the granny

enter the scents
every time
granny enters

granny has two types of
one her own –
a cocktail of the sacred ash and the
betel leaf

the other
the fragrance of her affection
and her bag of affection has different fragrances

every time
she steps in
different scents
step in

banana chips
fried in coconut oil
sweet tamarind
fried fish

granny’s call
never enters
the house
with a scentless bag

granny had a
sky of words
and a sun too

once in a while
the sun would rise
in my own little world
to reveal several faces

so many faces
so many people

Krishna draped in golden silk
Karna crying like a river
Ekalavya with a broken finger
the princess with fluttering wings
Aswathama roaming with pus-filled wounds
Sita swallowed by the doubting Rama
Poonthanam pacing with a brimming pot of wisdom
the madman of Naaranath rolling stone

so many people
so many faces

my world
was a festival of faces
lit by granny’s sun

leaving behind
her scents and
her sun
granny vanished
one day

in my mind
full of images
granny is
yet another image

did I say
granny possessed a
single fragrance?
granny had different scents

her head
smelt of the
fried coconut
with the fragrance of sandal
smelt of sweat
fragrant with the herb
with the touch of tulsi
her feet
fragrant with the roots

the scent I like of her –
the fragrance of the breeze
blowing through the hole of her drooping earlobe
the blowing breeze
also reeks with the fragrance
of her calling my name…’Baboo’

Therefore – The Rain

leaves dance
to the tune of
the strings of water:
therefore I like the rain

her hands of water
clean the earth
as the river washes the pebble:
therefore I like the rain

makes me yearn
and search for
the warmth of the womb:
therefore I like the rain

enters my body
through the feet
to give a cold shower:
therefore I like the rain

opens the door
of memory to
my closed childhood:
therefore I like the rain

wherever it rains
the rain water
tastes the same:
therefore I like the rain

The Cat

I am not accustomed to animals
other than humans

however of late
the cats with an unchanging warmth of palm
have become familiar

at an age
when I was incubating peacock feathers
I was afraid for a long time
of the meeeooows
stretching out their nails to bruise my fingers

fear of the cat has become false
with the scars of human nails
piercing the tender muscles of the heart

while shifting houses I understood
symbols of gratefulness were not the dogs
the cats

dogs are dependent on humans
never independent

the empty house
echoes the purr of the cat
still sucking the memory of the milk
of bygone days

cats depend on houses
and are always independent

the eyes of the dog
sparkle like a slave
the eyes of the cat
bristle with the pride of a friend

now I have no enmity with the cats
walking like a water drop falling on a dry cloth

I have enormous reasons
to justify the praise of the cats:
personal hygiene
environmental maintenance
thefts of choice
lovelorn cries
public decency…

two reasons stand out

cat is not the vehicle for
any of the gods I know

when the cat closes its eyes
the whole world turns dark

let me too
close my eyes ‘meeoow’


Do you discern
The moan of the leaf
Falling from a branch?
You know the trees history.

Do you capture
The lament of the feather
Parting from a wing?
The birds’ freedom is in your grasp.

Do you feel
The moisture of the drop
Leaving the cloud’s womb?
You know the secret of rivers.

Do you hear
The voice of silence
Emerging from the word?
You understand the soul of poetry.

(“The Scent of Granny”, “Therefore – The Rain”, and “The Cat” translated from the original Tamil by Jhnani. “Possibilities” translated by K.S. Subramanian.)

N. Sukumaran was a resident at Sangam House in February 2012. These poems have appeared in Other Places: The Sangam House Reader vol. 2.

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