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Perundevi is a leading contemporary Tamil poet who has published ten collections of her poetry over the past two decades. She has also published three volumes of essays in Tamil on subjects ranging from gender, caste, religion, nationalism and the arts and edited an anthology of critical essays. She has also published two volumes of micro-fiction. Perundevi is Associate Professor of Religious Studies in Siena College, upstate New York, with many academic publications to her credit. She divides her time between Albany, NY and Chennai.

Writing the definitions

How many ways

can we understand the female tongue?

Not as beads of vivacity.

not as a pomegranate's redness

not as a pet parakeet’s song

In its recurring refrain

it is the whirling signpost

at the crossroads of a storm

Heedless of direction

it is not even the trace of a roadmap,

Destination is never its goal

Sometimes It tinkles like

an anklet of disappointments.

Other times it is the prayer

of yearnings never in surplus

Yet other times

it is lightning that wants to play

hide-and-seek with the trails

a flash of light that stings the eye

Not quick to yield meaning

nor like diamonds in its dazzle

nor heralding any divine commandment

nor aligned with any moral

the female tongue is

our concord with freedom, as also

our grief for our distance from it

In the card deck of sentences

that befriend and betray fatherhood

it's a joker-trump


I’ve set a hibiscus

as the screensaver

on my phone

Whether it is day or night

the flower is always in bloom

It’s nothing special, of course

I can playfully

raise or lower

the brightness of the blue

sky in the background

Why, I can even change

the very colour of the sky

The hibiscus in this screensaver

looks smoother to the eye

feels more intimate

than the old hibiscus,

faded red and crawling with ants,

in the backyard

Its compact sky

fits snugly in my palm

Fat woman

I am a fat woman. Even a short walk

leaves me gasping for air

I don’t bother much about grey hairs

I need glasses to read

the fine print

I still can’t read

I fall asleep easily

No racy dreams

Lying on the bed at night

I look out the window

A dazzling festivity of stars

When will that foolish god

realize that there is no need

to offer proof

with such spectacle?

Also see:

‘Eternity, though, never blinks’Circumference (2014)


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