Arundhathi Subramaniam

Two Poems


First Draft




First Draft

It’s just old fashioned, they say,
to use pen and paper for first drafts

but I still need
the early shiver of ink
in a white February wind —

the blue slope and curve
of letter
bursting into stream

the smudge of blind alley
the retraced step, the groove
of old caravan routes, the slow thaw

of glacier, the chasm that cannot be forded
by image.

And I need reprieve, perhaps a whole season,
before I arrive at that first inevitable chill

when a page I dreamt piecemeal
in some many-voiced moon-shadowed thicket

flickers back at me
in Everyman’s handwriting

filaments of smell and sight
cleanly amputated —
Times New Roman, font size fourteen.

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The trick to deal
with a body under siege
is to keep things moving,

to be juggler
at the moment
when all the balls are up in the air,
a whirling polka of asteroids and moons,

to be metrician of the innards,
calibrating the jostle
and squelch of commerce
in those places where blood
meets feeling.

Chill in the joints,
primal rheumatism.

The marrow igloos
into windowlessness.

Time stops in the throat.
A piercing fishbone recollection
of the sea.

Old friend.
Ambassador to the world
that I am.

The trick is not to noun
yourself into corners.
Water the plants.
Go for a walk.
Inhabit the verb.

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