Bookmark: Love without a story

This is a collection of poetry fermented and aged with love. A love that’s long past the sappy, blinkered vision that youth harbors. A love that goes beyond just two individuals and walks the earth, misses friends and family, connects deeper with the gods. More importantly, one that finds self at last; a wounded, stitched-together self that starts feeling wholesome with the years.

There is remembrance woven in: days in batik shirts, drinking in the sun and Heineken; conversations over brun maskas that quickly swerve from Kolatkar to Gandhi; trips to Ajmer and La Verna. The nostalgia, when coloured with loss, becomes grief, triggering an all too familiar search for answers. It’s surprising how much the lines resonate, how much they hurt, how stark they are in their simplicity, how universal our bonds, how circular our lives.

When parents die,
you hunt for clues
in strips of Sorbitrate,
immaculate handwriting,
unopened cologne
and in evening air,
traces of baritone.

You believe
they must add up
to a story larger
than the one you knew,
larger than the face that looked up
abstractedly
from a book –
sovereign, mysterious –
while a cricket commentary crackled inanely
on a television screen,

Even when tinged with loss, the verses are fierce in their love – for people, for the monsoon, the soil, the sea and for words. You can almost smell the earth, that whiff of air that the first monsoon brings. In the linguistic voyage Subramaniam takes you through, some words are “juicier” than others (incarnadine, pnuema, mazhai, alluvium), building a crescendo. At other times, they converge to a single word. A dictionary sure helps, but they flow effortlessly through the pages, longing for warmth, for conversation, laughter, the shorthand of the body. Often, the deities slip in – outlawed gods, boy gods, the goddess Neeli Mariamman and more. They are part of the world view, the encompassing love that rises in these pages, giving it yet another dimension.

The first rains
are always
this plagiarism of yearning,
every moment
an echo of another –
the thunder the roar
of an outlawed god
whose hair is a foaming green river
through which seahorse
and carp dart drunkenly
around a crescent moon,
and every dark cloud a courier
from a classical past,
and longing
a rising fever of loam
and thirst for a man whose voice
is blue ash and oatmeal. And wetness.

Strong women roam about in these pages, catabolic women, unencumbered by domesticity and “bound for the ocean and largesse of sky.” Much of the volume is about this journey, the becoming. As you walk the road with Avvaiyar (moniker used for a poet and wise women of Tamil literature), you leave the puerility of youth behind, learning to embrace a face where the “civil war is almost over.” Where you are no stranger to the ways of the world, having gone through the rigmarole of love and loss, heartbreak and warmth, the politics and power plays, the vanities of men and more. A place where you have learnt to forgive and move on. A traveler, world-weary and wise, but with an appetite for life still.

…We’re not interested in camouflage
or self-revelation,
not looking for a bargain
or an invitation.

We’re capable of stillness
even as we gallivant,
capable of wisdom
even as we rant.

Look into our eyes,
you’ll see we’re almost through.
We can be kind but we’re not really
thinking of you.
..

It’s best to meet in poems and Love without a story is an excellent one to have a date with.

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