Poems by Syam Sudhakar

 

Rust

(To Prasobh)

 

As he stepped into the bathroom,
a golden monitor lizard
in search of water
rushed out
into the summer heat.

 

The old man
at once crushed its head
and left it there.

 

Stretched out on an easy chair
now he waits for his son.
Flashes of pulsing eyelids
from the lonely woods
creep in from a time when
he worked at the reservoir.


When the dark splinters of the forest
crawl in through the fence,
the hunt awaits.


The hunger of the villagers
chase the black lizards
up the coconut trees;
their raw tongue, a coveted delicacy.

Monitor lizards,
the offspring of rock,
then undressed into
a boiling pot.


His little boy
returning from school
welcomes the broiling meat
with a flurry of hunger
writhing in his eyes—
as past years trickle slowly
along the wrinkles of his forehead.

 

If his son
were to return tonight,
they would dine
on the lizard.
But how long could
an old man wait
with the centre portion
for a son
who will never return?

 

 

Benevolent Uncle

 

Grandfather had with him
a betel box made of ivory
a hog‑tusk dagger
a tiger-claw charm.

 

Never had I craved for
any such thing
until meeting my paternal uncle.
I yearned to carve a Buddha
on his long tooth – a pendant!

 

The micro sculptor promised
a smile of Buddha
if I could bring it to him.    

 

Uncle was benevolent.
Helped those who sought help
without even asking—
donated a mighty teak,
land for the needy,
a baby boy for Lakshmi, our maid.
On his command
the mango trees bloomed
even in winter
and bats migrated
leaving their pregnant jackfruit trees.

Yet I hesitated
to ask for the tooth.
(He would have given it
without even asking.)

 

Each time I visited his place,
either the wind or the mongoose[i]
seemed to have claimed

his teeth one by one.
Vishu, Onam[ii], Birthday;
the front row of time
falls
four
three
two
and only one left.

 

Yesterday,
while bathing[iii] him
I tried to pluck it off gently.
Didn’t come out:

deep-rooted
like a Banyan tree in its earth.

 

On looking closer
I saw on the betel stained tooth
a Buddha’s head
smiling at me
to relinquish desire.

[i] A popular belief that mongoose will come and exchange its teeth with the fallen teeth.

[ii] Vishu and Onam—festivals of Kerala.

[iii] A ritual performed after death.

 

 

Beside the River

 

Loneliness awakens you
to a river;
on its banks
she stands alone
gentle as the breeze.

She sits under a lemon tree;
her fingers smell of lemon.

If you sit beside her
lie in her lap
and believe that
a river can only
unite with the sea,
she will lay her hand
on your chest
dip in her fingers gently
and pluck out the ripe lemon
which was once a heart.
And
when the pain
flows as tears
she will wipe them away
and tell you that
loneliness
has awakened you
to that river.

Beside the river
your beloved breeze awaits.
You needn’t tell
her your troubles.
The daily stories and
endless predictions of newspapers
would tire her out.
She is far away
from your files, seals and day-to-day affairs.
Her fingers now smell
only of your loneliness
and in her ears
the sound of the river.

She will embrace you
as the morning sun
spreads on a stone.
You may see
glimpses of maternal roots
flashing in her eyes.
She may share
with you
the history that
flows in her breath
and in your ears –
the laughter of a river –
because loneliness
has brought you
beside the river.

With you, light as lemon
in her hands,
she asks:
‘What are you feeling now?’

Feel free to tell her
that loneliness is
slowly turning you
into a river,
and none remain
on its banks
save the breeze and the lemon tree.

 

 

Syam Sudhakar is an award- winning and widely  published young academician and bilingual poet from Kerala, writing both in native Malayalam and English. His poems are rich in native imagery and a sound pattern which gives him a unique place among contemporary poets. His poems are  a part of the anthology  by contemporary  Indian poets that has been edited by Sudeep Sen and published by the Sahitya Akademy. Sudhakar teaches English literature in St. Thomas College, Thrissur, Kerala. 

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