Two poems by Rajathi Salma

Photo courtesy of OR Books

To accompany The DiA Blog’s recent interview with the Tamil poet, we are pleased to reprint two of her poems, with the kind permission of OR Books.  Breathing was the first of Salma’s poems to be published in a local magazine, when she was still in captivity at the age of 16. Contract is the work of a more mature woman, and tells of the strain, inequality and compromise of married relationships.

 

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B R E A T H I N G

Everything happens so quickly
before I can feel it.
I keep trying to feel something
before it’s too late.
It all happens in my name
without me being there.
Flowers, people,
the world is so much bigger than me.
Should I carry on breathing
if I’m not really here?
 

Translation © 2013 Hari Rajaledchumy

 
* * *
 

C O N T R A C T

My sister hisses at me in anger
what my mother whispers tactfully:
that all failures
on the conjugal bed
are mine alone.
 
The first words I hear
every night in the bedroom:
‘What’s with you tonight?’
These are, most often,
the final words too.
 
A finger points to whorish barter.
Upon the air of timorous nights, awaiting redemption
from ten million glowing stars,
float words of wise counsel.
 
Unable to feed its young,
the cat sobs like a child;
and its wail
seizes my heart.
 
You, too,
must have your complaints.
My stand, though,
has been made clear
by time and history.
 
To receive
a little of your love,
dreary though it might be –
 
To fulfil
my duties
as the mother of your child –
 
To have you bring
sanitary towels and contraceptives
From the outside world;
And to seek more such petty favours –
 
To order you around a bit,
if I could –
 
To affirm a little
of my authority –
 
My vagina opens,
knowing all that it should.
 

Translation © 2013 N. Kalyan Raman * * * Salma: Filming a Poet in her Village, which contains fifteen of Salma’s poems, is available from the publisher as a paperback (£11/$16) and ebook (£7/$10).


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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