Poem

Madras
- Arundhathi Subramaniam
e-mail: arundhathisubramaniam@gmail.com

April 14, 2012

(Courtesy: Where I Live: New and Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Publishers, UK, 2009)

I was neither born nor bred here.
 But I know this city

       of casuarina and tart mango slices,
       gritty with salt and chilli
       and the truant sands of the Marina,
 
 the powdered grey jowls of film heroes,

       my mother’s sari, hectic with moonlight,
       still crackling with the voltage
       of an MD Ramanathan concert,
 
the flickering spice route of tamarind and onion
from Mylapore homes on summer evenings,

        the vast opera of the Bay of Bengal,
        flambéed with sun,
 
and a language as intimate as the taste
of sarsaparilla pickle, the recipe lost,
the sour cadences as comforting
as home.
 
It’s no use.
Cities ratify
their connections with you
when you’re looking the other way,
 
annexing you
through summer holidays,
through osmotic memories
of your father’s glib
lie to a kindergarten teacher
(‘My mother is the fair one’),
 
and the taste of coffee one day in Lucca
suddenly awakening an old prescription –
Peabury, Plantation A
and fifty grams of chicory
from the fragrant shop near the Kapaleeshwara temple.
 
City that creeps up on me
just when I’m about to affirm
world citizenship.
 
© Where I Live by Arundhathi Subramaniam

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