Poems by E.V.Ramakrishnan
The mirror wall is etched
You touch them as if you are carving names
in human flesh.
Memorial poles stand between
the living and the departed.
The bells commemorate
The boatman at the ferry knows
those with fewer words
a third of my words
at every ferry-crossing
to reach here.
Behind the mirror of water, there
is a realm of glass for those who are gone
from language, but none for those
whose language is gone.
Tips for living in an expanding universe
Imagine far is near, the language
you hear in the streets is creolized
by machines that have a mind of their own.
Laburnum trees bloom all at once
in the city. They have signed a pact
with the world: they retain rights
to slowness, memories as deep as minerals
and a local dialect soaked in monsoon
wind. But know that you are stuck in
a speeding escalator that moves only
outward. Set out much earlier to reach
the place of work on time. Send an email
to your wife in the next room, can we
meet at the weekend. Once in a while check
in the city museum, it helps to know the sect
you belong to. You need a satellite phone to locate
your parents. All you know is they are
drifting into a zone of civil war. Watch out
for alerts, travel advisories every morning
to know where you are, or rather, where you will
never be. Your home town has now moved
further away and the chance of meeting
someone with your mother tongue is remote.
What you see hurtling like a harpoon
into the horizon’s back confirms what you
always feared: you have outpaced yourself.
You are neither a native nor an immigrant.
Listen to weather telecasts. They will accompany
you like prayers. You are not in this poem,
since it returns to language without you.
You are stranded in the blueness of distance
that fences the world with barbed images.
About the poet
E.V.Ramakrishnan is a bilingual writer who has published poetry and literary criticism in Malayalam, his mother tongue and English. He also translates between Indian languages and English. He has three volumes of poetry in English: Being Elsewhere in Myself (1980), A Python in a Snake Park (1994), and Terms of Seeing: New and Selected Poems (2006). He is working on his next volume of English poems. Among his critical books in English are Interdisciplinary Alter-natives in Comparative Literature (Co-edited, 2013), Locating Indian Literature: Texts, Traditions and Translations (2011) and Making It New: Modernism in Malayalam, Marathi and Hindi Poetry (1995). He has five critical books in Malayalam, including Aksharavum Aadhunikatayum (1994) for which he was awarded Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award. He is presently Professor Emeritus, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies at Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.