Four Poems

Kutti Revathi

A Spectral Horse

The body  for my friend  is a kind of exhibit
A riddle without end  for my sister
For my mother  it’s enduringly sacred   God’s dirt
For my father  an asset to be protected and conserved
In the village pond  entangled among the fish nibbling my body
that was when it opened by itself   my body
they stole my innards and on lotus leaves rolled and
rolled and played with them   calling them, “diamond dew-bubbles”
I’ve heard grandma say that the body   for her   was an ornament
For the tiger  the body itself   is wilderness
For my child  it’s a never-setting sun
To the lover  a lake where the lotuses bloom
For me   my form is a spectral horse I straddle
my self isn’t locked up in any of my organs
on the horse of everyday feeling  I see freedom
For me  my form is a spectral horse I straddle
to bring the flown-away organs  flying  back
For me my form is a spectral horse I straddle
Not female  not male  not in woman
nor in man  is this spectral horse I tend

Fish Tank

I was a fish tank  the fry spoke with
soft lisping lips and circled inside me
this was not the sea restless by day or night
the hoary moss-covered pebbles were
rolled and nibbled by the little ones in their hunger
the tingling pain of dreams against the body
bubbles lifeless hitting the surface

that night and with it your extinguished manliness
made of me an ocean
and the fry struck the wall, my little ones

The Fiends that Fetter Us

sister . . . still many more breasts
for us to mould as if from clay
in this era when living breasts are bitten
by stones or by the tips of knives
they’re like the grain that feeds our world
but no fences to protect them
and why are birds of prey rooting in those silos?
eating sunshine straining to draw breath
from an arid field
that old woman’s breasts
fiends that fetter her
hanging low
knocking against the chest
like dried-up history beyond the borders on maps
not unlike those fiends   that’s why sister
breasts like freshwater ponds to drink deep from
let’s not make them vessels of unending misery
for a day at least let’s make those breasts stones
to use in slings
let’s wander with a solitary breast
and carry our sun above us


I a male tiger  you a tigress
and with love’s coarse mouth nipping cupping
sharp nails impressing the skin  clasping scratching
to one another we’ll reveal
the depth of our power

the tender leaves of your eyes
the forests will show them hiding
I’ll give you my body
invisible in the firmness of the trees
and in the nights when we join together
the desire I’d kept hidden until then
for you
will screech and squall from my throat

the smell of screwpine blossoms emanating as if
from inside me  from my hidden zones  only for you
Like a spring breaking from mountain rocks
milk sprouts from your chest
the little ones will come  mouths clinging
neglecting love  I’ll lie there

and when you’re no longer able
to hunt me
I’ll come back to caress you
I’ll run my fingers through your fur
and when you’re struggling to brook my presence
twitching to become my prey
I’ll hunt and finish you then

this is how I become the tigress
and you the male tiger

translated from the Tamil by Padma Narayanan, Vivek Narayanan, and Kutti Revathi