Sujatha Mathai – WE Kamala Das Poetry Award ’18

Goddess Without Arms

(Excerpted from ‘Equiverse Space – A Sound Home in Words’, a WE anthology)

My poetry didn’t come
a perfect flower,
every petal proudly placed.
It was never a goddess
           rising  from the waters
seated serenely on a shell,
or emerging from a lotus
         all her arms gracefully extended,
a Canova Venus or a Saraswati,
resplendent in her plenitude,
certain of her sovereignty.
No. It grew painfully,
            somewhat blind,
a few stray petals here and there,
                   more like wounds.

But day by day,
it gathered grace,
    arms, limbs, eyes…

My Lost Language

I search for my lost syllables
In the green grass of the paddy fields.
My lost language, Malayalam,
Has dropped like a gold wedding band,
Which slipped off the finger
Into the stream below,
A lost bond lying
In the flowing water,
Amid the pebbles deep in the water.

As I search, I hear my grandmother’s voice
Speak from the bed under the attic stairs.
How many nights I lay with her
Sharing the pain and the sorrows of her life.
The smell of whole mangoes pickled in brine
Emanates from the earthen bharanis lining the wall,
Vying  with the smell of jasmine
Coming in through the open window.
Grandmother smells of aromatic oils
Meant to ease her pains.

In the dark night outside, snakes shed their skin.
I hug her tight as she tells me
In the music of that lost language
About her sad childhood,
The cruel stepmother, the hunger, the humiliation,
The struggle to learn a little English,
All in Malayalam, which opens windows.

On the day of her death, she appears to me in a dream.
Clear bells ring, piercing my consciousness.
Molle, you know I lived a sad life,
But can you feel it now, the joy?
She holds out the lost band to me –
English and Malayalam bound together in gold.

My lost language shines in the palm  of my hand,
Forming intimate syllables,
Rediscovering lost memories,
A language that trembles in my deepest sleep.

(Excerpted from ‘Equiverse Space – A Sound Home in Words’, a WE anthology)


‘He who seeks light, must learn to walk in the dark.’
                                           St. John of the Cross

When  I was seventeen
And dreaming of distant lands
And faraway loves,
My grandmother said
‘Get her married        
         before the light
            goes out of her face,’
The light in a woman’s face 
Should not be so brief,
It’s meant to last a long time,
Nourished by the soul,
Well, they got me married,
                   put out that light.
But I learnt to live in candle-light
When the other lights went out.
One learns by subtle contact to reach
Electricity at most mysterious levels.
Light goes from the face, but
Survival lends one light
                that shines most brightly,
She who seeks light,
Must learn to walk in the darkness
On her own road.

(Excerpted from ‘Equiverse Space – A Sound Home in Words’, a WE anthology)

Anna Sujatha Mathai has five collections of poetry in English to her credit and a short novel, Shueli’s Star, which is being serialised on StrandsLitsphere. Sujatha is the recipient of the inaugural WE Kamala Das Poetry Award, 2018, and her poems find a place of honour in Equiverse Space – A Sound Home in Words (a WE anthology). Her poems have been anthologized and translated into various Indian and European languages, and she has read them in India, England and Struga. Anna Sujatha Mathai holds a first class Masters In English Literature from the University of Delhi and a Postgraduate Degree In Social Studies from the University Of Edinburgh, Scotland.  Her poetry collections are Crucifixions, We, The Unreconciled, The Attic Of Night, And Life–On My Side Of The Street.