A.K. Ramanujan

The Black Hen

It must come as leaves to a tree or not at all yet it comes sometimes as the black hen with the red round eye on the embroidery stitch by stitch dropped and found again and when it’s all there the black hen stares with its round red eye and you’re afraid.

Still Life

When she left me after lunch,I read for a while. But I suddenly wanted to look again and I saw the half-eaten sandwich, bread, lettuce and salami, all carrying the shape of her bite.

Extended Family

Yet like grandfatherI bathe before the village crow the dry chlorine watermy only Ganges the naked Chicago bulba cousin of the Vedic sun slap soap on my backlike father and thinkin proverbs like meI wipe myself dry with an unwashedSears turkish towel like motherI hear faint morning song (though here it soundsJapanese) and three clear …

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Elements of Composition

Composed as I am, like others,of elements on certain well-known lists,father’s seed and mother’s egg gathering earth, air, fire, mostlywater, into a mulberry mass,moulding calcium, carbon, even gold, magnesium and such,into a chattering self tangledin love and work, scary dreams, capable of eyes that can see,only by moving constantly,the constancy of things like Stonehenge or …

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Sky-man in a manholewith astronomy for dream,astrology for nightmare; fat man full of proverbs,the language of lean years,living in square after almanac squareprefiguring the dayof windfall and landslide through a calculusof good hours,clutching at the tear in his birthday shirtas at a holein his mildewed horoscope, squinting at the parallaxof black planets,his Tiger, his Hare …

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A River

In Madurai,city of temples and poets,who sang of cities and temples,every summera river dries to a tricklein the sand,baring the sand ribs,straw and women’s hairclogging the watergatesat the rusty barsunder the bridges with patchesof repair all over themthe wet stones glistening like sleepycrocodiles, the dry onesshaven water-buffaloes lounging in the sunThe poets only sang of …

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