– Sharanya Manivannan –


I built this house for shelter
and to keep from your sight
the life that proceeds
in your absence.

I fortified its walls,  
twined its porch 
with trellis vines, suncatchers,
 concertinaed lanterns.

                 But how it swings
at every thought of you,

the pendulum of a wrecking ball
in the chambers of this heart.

Winter In The City Without Exits

Each year, in the winter, the bathroom door
swells with rain, refuses to close, creaks in
tandem with a rogue wind impeded
not even by walls and windowpanes.

The electricity is a faithless thing, 
and when it’s gone the sky seethes 
in a tenebrous reddishness, palm 
fronds agitating in silhouette. 

On the beach, families huddle
under thatch, their huts open to 
the direction from which all comes:
cyclones, sunrises, tidal discontent.
They would trade me this: my flat,
my slippers, my shawls, my studied
resignation, my willful disdain.

In the city without exits,
there are those who have no doors.

And in the streets, men and women make
their beds, spreading cloth on the pavement. 
Some will each curl into himself, 
cocooned as tight as a fist, alone 
as a bud out of season. And yet I know
that even here, in this bleakness,

there are others, warmed all night by 
the breath on the back of his neck, 
by the spine aligned to her breasts. 


The forest captured the sound of your voice
as though within a conch. I held its chimera 
to my ear and let it wrench through my life, 
the way fools listen to humming shells
not recognizing the song of their own 
blood-tide, not trusting their bodies 
capable of encapsulating the sea.