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Priya Sarukkai Chabria

Poems after Andal

priya “Abhivyakti”, Kanchan Chander, 2011, acrylic on paper

Prayer as Three Camera Movements

Falconetti’s Joan of Arc Face
Cracked sun the teardrop that hangs on a lash and falls
bursts skids down her pitted skin, down her brokenness
as she, stone flower, sunflower, turns towards the inquisitor’s glare
and her sainthood is slowly hammered into chainmail breasts.
Her silent words are wrong whatever she says.
Extreme close-up: no let up to transformation. See the trembling
                                                                                                                           of cell, phrase & faith
Kinuyo Tanaka’s Nape in The Life of Oharu
She drops her head to staunch her eyes’
rain as her son who reigns walks past not knowing that
sack of kneeling woman is his mother who sinned &
pulled herself out of icy seas like a wounded seal, sealed
to secrecy. See the bent stalk of her nape, how soft, how ripe for the axe.
Crane shot ascends: suffering shrinks to dewdrop size. Silence of the enfolding
Jijai’s Back in Sant Tukaram
“Accompany me to heaven,” her husband says. “Who’ll feed
the kids & scrub the buffalo if I come with you? Go!”
she says rolling out chapattis, rough as dung-cakes, as holy bread.
The saint mounts god’s eagle & people chant. She flings
the sweat from her face on the earth. Her back sturdy as a tree, and bowed.
Slow backward track: the unseen movement that remains as time forgets
                                                                                                                              the colour of clay.


I am
       meteorite hurtling
       to collide with you:
accept me


I am
       moon circling
       your dizzying face:
capture me


I am
       planetary system mesmerised
        by your gravity:
enlarge to absorb me


I am
       wheeling galaxy pulled by
      your trillion trillion suns:
rip through me


I am
       shadow wave emitted in the first
      moment of your birth:
be unborn


I am
       hunger falling into your dark
      event horizon:
eat me


Don’t free me /free me

Notes to “Prayer as Three Camera Movements”:
1. Maria Falconetti in Carl Dreyer’s Joan of Arc, 1928.
2. Kinuyo Tanaka  in Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Life of Oharu, 1952.
3. Jijai  in V. G. Damle and S. Fattelal’s Sant Tukaram, 1936.