Three Poems by Chandramohan Sathyanthan

Chandramohan SATHYANATHAN is the author of poetry collections Warscape Verses (2014) and Letters to Namdeo Dhasal (2016), shortlisted for Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize and the Harish Govind Memorial Prize. Sathyanathan coordinates English-language poetry readings in Kerala as well as a subaltern cultural collective there; in 2016 Outlook Magazine listed him as Dalit Achiever of the Year.


BEFORE YOUR INTERROGATION

When cops come to frisk you,
Drape your soul in mono-syllable answers.

Your forehead doesn’t seem to have furrows
Ploughed by your faith?

Please identify all the branches of this family tree
Knotted with your blood.

Start a contraption by curling your hair
Set in motion a perfect identity theft (not robbery)

Wear your patriotism
On your sleeves
Like superman’s underwear.

The curves of your body are not analytically tractable
We usurp your roots!

We have to take you to a black hole
Devoid of any reason.

You need to confess
From the Big Bang to the drifting of Pangaea.

Perch on a verse
From a new language
Push the envelope of your horizon


THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACK BEARD

1

Does the razor, shaving
hundreds of beards
cops pull out of line
to frisk, shave its master?

2

All you need is in that bag:
Trim your surname,
make it palatable for tongues
at the immigration office.

3

Shave your dreadlocks.
Your bald head is an
Evacuated language.

4.

Now try locating your home
On Google Earth.

5

The blade is twin-edged:
One side for shaving,
The other to redraw maps.

6

In the midst of this conversation
Some islands changed hands
Between their imperial masters
No river changed course.

7

Always tether your goat
Do not fly kites
Never self-intersect yourself
In knots and tangles

8

Drape yourself in a camouflage
Of single syllable answers.

9

Try loose shunting your name
if it has flammable content:
Don’t let the millipede of evolution
come to screeching halt.

10

Before the twin towers fell
Some surnames were innocuous.

11

After the fall
Some surnames are fish-bones
Stuck at the throat, never binned:

12

We have to take you to a black hole:
You need to confess
From the Big Bang to the drifting of Pangaea.

13

History will catch up with you
in your rear-view mirror.


THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACK BURKINI

(After Wallace Stevens)

“I created the burkini to give women freedom, not to take it away “-Aheda Zanetti

1

Burkini is a language
Terrifying those ignorant of its text.

2

Cops patrol her tan lines
Like dams patrol
Rivers flowing above danger marks.

3

All you need is in that bag:
Change into a garment
More palatable for the cops in uniform.

4

Some garments cling too close to your surname
Like a metaphor too loud for good poetry.

5

Sea surfing can be tiring
Like an infinite ebb and flow of a questionnaire.
Batting an eye lid can be a tad too immodest.

6

Tether yourself close to the beach.
Do not surf too deep into the ocean.
Never self-intersect in circles of knots and tangles.

7

Bruises sustained from frisking
Metamorphose into festering wounds.
Gangrene could gnaw at your surname.

8

Erase your footprints from the sands.
Waves of time rarely wash the footprints of a scuffle.
Prolonged scuffle can bury us all in a deep hole.

9

Do you remember the first corpse
The sea sucked off a turbulent beach?
The sea spat it out after three days of frisking.

10

The footprints of scuffle
Implicates you from shore to shore,
Blowing up all bridges between you to anyone.

11

During this conversation
Some territory has been ceded across
The tan lines of your body.

12

Your body stripped of the garment
Remains an evacuated language.
Can a language be a scarecrow?

13

History will catch up with you
Through your rear-view mirror
Even if you are full throttle in your
Pursuit of happiness.


 

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