Poetry at Sangam




(Translated from the Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström)

The evening breeze
blows towards the bride
as she takes her leave
on her wedding day.

Her elder sister
pushes her face inside
the purdah, and instructs her
on making love, surrounded
sweetly, by the scent of flowers.

She has riffled in haste
through pages of heavy books
she herself had not known before,
in order to tell her little sister
which days are best for sex,
when she would, most likely, conceive,
what things are haraam,
she tells her about prescribed
post-coital ablutions.

Before her small eyes
suiting her short frame
images intervene:
the affliction of her own life
and the empty routine
of tired, worn out sex.
These she hides within herself.

From time to time
the younger girl, disturbed
by the shameful, falling words,
tries to muzzle them
with her own foolish

That entire night
the new bride
disentangles her sister’s advice
caught in her dangling ear-drops,
and lays them out carefully
upon the marriage bed.