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Salma (b.1968) is a writer of Tamil poetry and fiction, activist and politician. She has published three volumes of Tamil poetry: Oru Malaiyum Innoru Malaiyum (An Evening and Another Evening), Pachai Devaidai (Green Angels) and Thanumanaval (A Woman Become Herself). She is also the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. All three have been published in English translation to wide acclaim. Salma’s writings have won national and international recognition. She was the recipient of the fourth Mahakavi Kanhaiyalal Sethia award for poetry in 2019.


My sister hisses at me in anger

what my mother whispers tactfully:

that all failures

on the conjugal bed

are mine alone.

The first words I hear

every night in the bedroom:

‘What’ll it be tonight?’

These are, most often,

the final words too.

A finger points to whorish barter.

Upon the air of timorous nights, awaiting redemption

from ten million shimmering stars,

float words of wise counsel.

Unable to feed its young,

the cat bawls like a child,

and its wail

seizes my heart.

You, too,

must have your complaints.

My stand, though,

has been made clear

by time and history.

To receive

a little of your love,

dreary though it might be –

To fulfil

my duties

as the mother of your child –

To have you bring

sanitary towels and contraceptives

from the outside world;

and to seek more such petty favours –

To order you around a bit,

if I could –

To assert a little

of my authority –

My vagina opens,

knowing all that it should.

Notes on a Fatality - 1

On the day he was killed,

the rain was pouring down

with profound compassion.

Solitude of the years to come

settles on the skin

of the murdered man’s wife.

A few kin in whom

the grief has already receded, begin

to cook a special meal

for the visiting mourners.

The bereavement, which had not

registered strongly with anyone,

pervades the crowd, infesting

the air like clandestine news.

To believe that he would

return someday

from a nameless town

reassures the children.

As the ripple of voices

confirms that, before dawn,

even the residual cries of lament

will dry up overnight

like puddles of rainwater,

his death

occurs yet again—in me

Also see:

Salma’s poems in Poetry International (2006)

The Universe in the Closet: Interview with Salma in Poetry International (2006)

23 poems in Salma: Filming a Poet in Her Village by Kim Longinotto and Rajathi Salma (2013)

Salma’s poems in (2021)


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