Words

Collection of poems




Codex-Tempus

Foreword

Time. Even as I write this, I hear my heart beat. I see the sun set. I see my nails have grown and look different from last week. The length of shadows are increasing right in front of my eyes, as the sun is moving across the horizon. My hair has grown stealthily. As I write, lives are coming and going, people are meeting and parting, bodies are burning and healing, Venus is moving in its orbit, slowly trudging across the waist of the sun, and time is making itself known through every little particle, visible or invisible. ‘Tempus’ in Latin means time, and in Finnish, Swedish and German, means ‘grammatical tense’. I chose to name my collection Codex-Tempus because it is both a temporal and a spatial journey. The grammatical tense is important as it often determines past, present and future, which necessarily implies a certain sense of travel through time and space. The poems in this collection travel to and fro, and even across borders of consciousness.

 

A River Remembers

June 2012

Teach me the old names of things
Teach me the names of numerous places
You and I have traversed
In countless lifetimes, in countless forms
Teach me the language of prayer
That trickled down through generations
of consciousness

 

While you fly

While you fly
I walk through millions of sunsets
When I’m not so careful
I travel through conversations,
Glide over my thoughtless boats.
I shrink myself and you,
Wrap us in old newspaper,
Tenderly.

 

I have this rock in my hand

I have this rock in my hand,
It is my memory.
It was uprooted from its home
By the river bank.
I took it with me.
It became my home
That I carried in my backpack.
I carried it across oceans and continents
In my red backpack.

 

This is my heart

This is my heart. It is a good heart.
In between the beats
and its half beats I hear the music of my ancestors.
My ears are closely tucked
In between the breasts
Of my mother, sleeping beside me, heaving little sighs.
My eyes are wide and eager,
and careful not to miss
a single beat,

 

Cell-death

The doctor declared.
With unshaken, irreversible conviction.
The little, red, plastic cover
Lying loosely on the glass half-filled
With water, in the clinic smelling of antibiotics
Shook and trembled, every time
He placed his knowing hands
On the table.
“Parkinson’s”, he declared,

 

Traces

My mother was my first love.
I looked for her
In the folds of my skin.
I looked for myself
In the skin she hid
In the folds of her sari.
When I asked her where I came from
She said I was a star before my birth.
And as she prayed hard, in her bed,
For a little girl,

 

22, Lansdowne Road

It’s a 45-minute bus ride.
Once I get off at the Lansdowne Market stop,
I walk for about twenty minutes.
I know the turn because I have memorized the red wall
That screams out political slogans, obscenities, proclamations of anonymous love.
I walk with my finger tips touching the curves, the dents and the angles of these letters
That make turns to form words
To form memories that they are unaware of.
In my twelve-year-old mind,
The city is building its first impressions
That change pattern with time.

 

Vanishing point

I’m lying in bed.
It’s a scorching afternoon in mid-May.
My aunt has drawn the curtains
To block the sun.
But its resilience keeps peeping through the thick, white fabric
Creating patterns of shadow on the ceiling.
I look at the smoke of the incense she has burnt
Before she has tucked me into bed for an afternoon siesta.
I am eight years old.
I am still looking for god

 

Life bled through the pores

In the beginning, the stream was crimson red.
It flowed across the surface in a translucent line that gave birth to several other crystallized tributaries and distributaries.
They all flowed across the differently shaped mounds.
The streams thickened.
And bright yellow fluids seeped through the openings left behind on the mounds.
The reds, the yellows, the greens mixed together in a colourful palette on the mound.
There was life around the colours - throbbing - and therefore pain.
Life bled through every pore.
And therefore pain.

 

Origin story

My grandma died a year before I was born.
I know her through the old, black-and-white pictures.
Some sepia-tinted, [y]ear-torn pictures.
She hung on a piece of old, rusty nail
As I grew up in our middle-class, urban, two-roomed apartment
My mother called me ‘Ma’.
She said I was her.
I looked for traces she had left behind.
Unknowingly.

 

Prayer

All my life I have prayed in languages I did not know
But is it not enough that I carry my body around?
This body that has soaked itself in rivers I have known,
has dried itself in the wind flowing from your shifting shores.
Even when I sit and look at golden sunsets across the hills,
my body that is in travel and unrest
still finds salvation in memories of the soft afterglow
seeping through the translucence of my window.
In a house that I have left long ago.

 


Welcome

Sukanya Thumbnail I received my doctoral degree in Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford in June 2016. My dissertation, completed under the guidance of Dr. Jisha Menon, was awarded the Charles R. Lyons Memorial Prize for Outstanding Dissertation. My research project was supported by the Graduate Research Opportunities Award in Stanford, which facilitated my fieldwork in India and Bangladesh during the summer of 2013 and 2014; and the Wisch Fellowship by the Center for South Asia, Stanford University, for my work in South Asian theater and performance studies. I identify as an artist-scholar, and my training and specialization are in the area of oral history; postcolonial and ethnic studies (with a focus on South Asian performance studies); ethnomusicology; dramatic literature; transcultural theater and performance; experimental devised performances; and community-based performance-making.

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It would be wonderful to hear back from you, and you can always reach me via email.

Sukanya C.