“Bookmarking The Oasis” and other poems by K. Srilata

Things I didn’t know I loved

(after Nazim Hikmet)

I didn’t know I loved windows so much
but I do – enough to wrestle
someone to the ground over them,
so light can, once again, flood my eyes.

I didn’t know I loved bare feet so much,
or walking away on them to wherever point,
my heart slung over my shoulder
like a sheep-skin bag.

I didn’t know I loved small islands of quiet
in the middle of the day,
but I do – they feel like old friends.

I didn’t know I loved the idea
of night descending like a tired bird
or birds flying in and out of rooms and poems
but I do.

I didn’t know I loved so many things.
Only now that I have read Hikmet,
am I setting them free,
one by one.

from Bookmarking the Oasis(Poetrywala, 2015)

Looking for Light, Sunbirds

I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.
(Hafiz of Shiraz)

Looking for light,
sunbirds hop
on hopeful, spindly legs.
I am no different.
The same distaste of darkness,
and, at dusk, the same torment
of light fading.

Often, the only light to be had,
is desperate and feeble,
too deep to access,
my body, a manhole from which
I must rescue that one sweet ray

or remain, forever, bereft.

from Bookmarking the Oasis (Poetrywala, 2015)

Bookmarking the Oasis

I
That spring, I started placing
my poems into printed pages
.

Bookmarks of dream-hope,
they grow into slender, green leaves,
their pores closed,
place-holding,
in readiness for summer afternoons,
the promise of an oasis within.

II
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said
,

inking itself green
in leaf-vein
and human heart.

III

I have been working for years
on a four line poem
about the life of a leaf;
I think it might come out right this winter.

Winter
and the only leaves to be found
are the ones
hibernating
inside books of poetry.

IV

In the fall, the black bear
carries leaves into the darkness
.

I follow
                     the trail
To the centre.

Note: The lines/phrases in italics are drawn from David Morley, Songs of Papusza (Section I), (Philip Larkin, The Trees (Section II), Derek Mahon, The Mayo Tao (Section III), and Mary Oliver, Some Questions You Might Ask (Section IV).

from Bookmarking the Oasis (Poetrywala, 2015)

What I Would Like is to be a Victorian Man of Letters

What I would like is to be a Victorian man of letters
and retire to my study when seized by that particular need
to be solitary and aloof.
I have dreamt of this for years.
Female and non-Victorian though I am, I can see it all.
It is crystal clear, and oh! so delicious:
that desk – neat, rectangular, coffee brown,
its drawers deep and seductive,
holding secret things from another age,
a moleskin notebook,
a cup of tea,
a swivel chair with a pipe somewhere at hand
and a bookcase – except with my kind of books,
lots of Jane Austen and some Emily Dickinson for those long cold nights.

No adolescent daughters abandoning dresses in contemptuous heaps,
no grubby sons, their dirty socks hidden like bombs under books,
no spouses, no mothers, nor mothers-in-law with urgent and important thoughts.

On crazy days crowded with adolescent daughters and grubby sons, spouses, mothers and mothers-in-law,
I dream short-burst dreams of that study, some of them so vivid they make me weep between chores.

Deadweight

I carry her around with me everywhere.
There’s no escape. It is as simple as that.
Her weight’s on my lap when I sit.
My live, rotting Siamese twin,
You are the one who looks out of my eyes each morning.
When the day is folded and put away, it is your eyes I reach for
so I can dream in them.

Do you remember?
It was your eyes I was using when we saw that female monkey,
dragging along her still-born infant.
Which one of them was the dead one?
“Such love, I am told, is common, in the monkey world,” you said, too quickly.

Such love.
Such love.
It hung in the air between us,
heavier than a rock,
more dangerous than a loaded gun.

Bookmarking The Oasis” and other poems is copyright K. Srilata

국제K.SrilataA Professor of English at IIT Madras, K.Srilata has four collections of poems: Bookmarking the Oasis, Writing Octopus, Arriving Shortly and Seablue Child. Her novel, Table for Four, long listed for the Man Asian literary prize, was published by Penguin, India. She co-edited the anthology Rapids of a Great River: The Penguin Book of Tamil Poetry (Penguin/Viking), Short Fiction from South India (OUP) and The Other Half of the Coconut: Women Writing Self-Respect History (Zubaan). Her short fiction and poetry have been featured in The BloodAxe Anthology of Indian Poets, The Harper Collins Book of English Poetry by Indians, and Wasafiri. Srilata was a writer-in-residence at the University of Stirling, at Sangam house and at the Yeonhui Art Space in Seoul. She is currently co-convening a trans-national poetry initiative.