feet in mud. For a family thinking they will return.
Maybe the house still stands. Maybe the sea.
The dead leave no clues about what lies beyond.
We call it eternal. We call it now.
I agree to turn my skin inside out,
to reinvent every lost word, to burnish,
to steal, to do what I must
in order to singe your lungs.
I will forgo happiness,
stab myself repeatedly,
and lower my head into countless ovens.
I will fade backwards into the future
and tell you what I see.
If it is bleak, I will lie
so that you may live
seized with wonder.
If it is miraculous, I will
send messages in your dreams,
and they will flicker
as a silvered cottage in the woods,
choked with vines of moonflower.
Don’t kill me, Reader.
This neck has been working for years
to harden itself against the axe.
This body, meagre as it is,
has lost so many limbs to wars, so many
eyes and hearts to romance. But love me,
and I will follow you everywhere –
to the dusty corners of childhood,
to every downfall and resurrection.
Till your skin becomes my skin.
Let us be twins, our blood
thumping after each other
like thunder and lightning.
And when you put your soft head
down to rest, dear Reader,
I promise to always be there,
humming in the dungeons
of your auditory canals –
an immortal mosquito,
hastening you towards fury,
Ode to Patrick Swayze
At fourteen I wanted to devour you,
the twang, the strut, the perfect proletarian
butt in the black pants of you. I wanted a man
like you to sashay into town and teach me
how to be an aeroplane in water. I didn’t want
to be a baby. I wanted to be your baby.
I wanted revenge. I wanted to sue my breasts
for not living up to potential. I wanted Jennifer Grey
to meet with an unfortunate end and not have a love affair
with a ghost. At fourteen, I believed you’d given birth
to the word preternatural, and when Mother came
home one day, waving her walking shoe, saying,
I lost my soul in the Theosophical Society,
I wanted to dance as recklessly as the underside
of that shoe. I wanted to be a pebble in the soft
heel of you. To horse-whisper and live on a ranch
in Texas and love my blonde wife forever and have
creases around my eyes and experience at least one
goddamn summer where I could be like the wind –
sexy and untrammelled and dirty. And it was only
after I found my own Johnny (and got rid of him),
only yesterday, when I rescued a northern shoveler
from crows on the beach, his broken wing
squished against the crockery of my ribs,
only after setting him down at the edge
of a canal, where he sank in to the long patient
task of dying, that I realised what I’d wanted
most was to be held by someone determined
to save me, someone against whom I could press
my unflourishing chest, who’d offer me
not just the time of my life, but who’d tear
out reams of his yellowing pancreas,
and say, Here, baby, eat.
17 Summer in Madras
18 Rain at Three
19 A Fable for the 21st Century
20 What the Sea Brought In
21 How to be Happy in 101 days
24 Fear Management
25 Ode to Patrick Swayze
26 Everyone Loves a Dead Girl
28 Monsoon Poem
33 To My First White Hairs
36 Considering Motherhood While Falling Off a Ladder in Rome
38 Love in the Time of Autolysis
40 Jungian Postcard
42 Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods
44 Strong Men, Riding Horses
46 Disco Biscuits
47 Honesty Hotel for Gents
48 My Grandmother Never Ate a Potato in Her Life
50 Your Body Language is not Indian! or, Where I Am Snubbed
at a Cocktail Party by a Bharatanatyam Dancer
52 Saturday on the Scores
54 The Women of the Shin Yang Park Sauna, Gwangju
56 Encounters with a Swedish Burglar
57 Pig-killing in Viet-Hai
60 Calcutta Canzone
62 Understanding My Fate in a Mexican Museum
64 Dinner Conversations
66 The Leather of Love
70 O Great Beauties!
73 Clumps of Happiness
74 Meeting Elizabeth Bishop in Madras
76 Grandmothers Abroad
78 Poem for a Dead Dog
80 Find the Poets
82 The Day Night Died
83 Coastal Life
84 The View From Inside My Coffin
87 Portrait of the Poet as a Reclining God
91 When I Was Still a Poet
'A quest for the truths contained within that "failed infinity / Of body, fibre, blood". She works under her expressive title to offer an eloquent dissection of the body - its attributes, metaphors, deficiencies and contradictions - all delivered in chromatic, richly textured lines, in which the assured manipulation of rhythm and internal rhyme produces poems of remarkable balance and grace' – Sarah Crown, TheGuardian [on Countries of the Body]
'Free of the habitual lyricism of Indian writers, her work is austere and beautiful. Her refreshing muscularity gives her a distinct voice, both as a woman and an Indian, focusing on the female body, which she treats as a venue for male pleasure and a factory for patriarchy, producing desired sons and unwanted daughters' – Nirpal Dhaliwal, The Times Online
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