2 Poems by Sharanya Manivannan

29 April 2010
2 Poems by Sharanya Manivannan

That November I washed
my hair with rabbit's blood -
just once, just to tell you I had
done it. You met me at the
airport, unwashed and sleepy
off a late night flight that blurred
into dawn, and I told you this
then. Seven in the morning,
your country, with its highways
so neat they bewildered me in
the taxi home; still full of my
month in the monsoon, my hair
still smelling of blood and oil
and nine kinds of winds.
"I have something to show
you," you said, and opened
your palm. In it lay a small,
hard crescent, translucent where
it wasn't flaked with red. A
toenail, one I must have cut
weeks before, sitting in the
centre of your hand like a
little sickle. "It was painted,"
you said. "You cared for it."
This was romance to me,
playing at the morbid,
asking if you would eat
my ashes if I died first.
The curls of hair I kept
in a pouch for years,
breathing you in like
an old religion. I loved
it. I loved you.
I did not know then that
there is only so far you
can scratch before you
haemorrhage, that however
tight the lid of skin, you
cannot stop the seep.
I did not know then
that we would both
draw blood, that we
would both


Last night someone told me that in the Balinese culture, the forms of address between great-grandparent and great-grandchild are the same word. Kumpi. Because every four generations, we become equal.

The work of the oracle is through body and voice. The work of the oracle is to give voice to the bodies upon which are inscribed our fates. The work of the oracle is to go beyond body-memory, to transcend into ancestral memory. To excavate. To restore. The work of the oracle is as much past as it is future.

I believe now why the Tamils call it thalaiezhithu. That which is written on the forehead. Imprinted on the skull. Life is language, script, alphabet. The body receives.

In Sanskrit my name means sanctuary. And my other name, daughter of the earth. And benevolent mother goddess of blood, sex, death. And so I knot these strands together, neither dream-weaver nor dream-catcher but dream-capturer, tapestry a life. Blood, death, memory.

Sharanya Manivannan was born in India in 1985, grew up in Sri Lanka and South East Asia, and has lived in Chennai since 2007. Her first book of poems, Witchcraft, was published in 2008 to critical acclaim, and was described by Singapore Literature Prize winner Ng Yi-Sheng as being “sensuous and spiritual, delicate and dangerous and as full as the moon reflected in a knife” in The Straits Times.

Sharanya’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals including Drunken Boat, Softblow, White Whale Review, Kritya, Clementine, Istanbul Literary Review, Danse Macabre, A CafĂ© In Space and Pratilipi. A personal column, The Venus Flytrap, appears biweekly in The New Indian Express. She was the recipient of the Lavanya Sankaran Fellowship for 2008-2009.

Since 2001, Sharanya has done readings extensively – a selection of recordings of her poetry is here: www.hercircleezine.com/2008/04/01/sharanya-manivannan. She is working on a novel and a second book of poetry, and more of her work can be found online at www.sharanyamanivannan.com and http://sharanyamanivannan. wordpress.com.
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