A. K. Ramanujan

(16 March 1929 - 13 July 1993 / Mysore / India)

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, mostly
water, into a mulberry mass,
moulding calcium,

carbon, even gold, magnesium and such,
into a chattering self tangled
in love and work,

scary dreams, capable of eyes that can see,
only by moving constantly,
the constancy of things

like Stonehenge or cherry trees;

add uncle's eleven fingers
making shadow-plays of rajas
and cats, hissing,

becoming fingers again, the look
of panic on sister's face
an hour before

her wedding, a dated newspaper map,
of a place one has never seen, maybe
no longer there

after the riots, downtown Nairobi,
that a friend carried in his passport
as others would

a woman's picture in their wallets;

add the lepers of Madurai,
male, female, married,
with children,

lion faces, crabs for claws,
clotted on their shadows
under the stone-eyed

goddesses of dance, mere pillars,
moving as nothing on earth
can move &mdash

I pass through them
as they pass through me
taking and leaving

affections, seeds, skeletons,

millennia of fossil records
of insects that do not last
a day,

body-prints of mayflies,
a legend half-heard
in a train

of the half-man searching
for an ever-fleeing
other half

through Muharram tigers,
hyacinths in crocodile waters,
and the sweet

twisted lives of epileptic saints,

and even as I add
I lose, decompose,
into my elements

into other names and forms,
past, and passing, tenses
without time,

caterpillar on a leaf, eating,
being eaten.

Submitted: Saturday, June 16, 2012

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