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Sukirtharani


Sukirtharani is an Indian feminist poet who is widely acclaimed for her contribution to contemporary Dalit and Tamil literature. Sukirtharani is a Tamil teacher at the Government Girls High School, and has a Master’s degree in economics and Tamil literature. Her works include six published collections of poems. The works themselves have been described as celebratory towards the female body and a chastisement of the oppressive caste system which encapsulate a dual experience of being born both a female and a Dalit.


Night Beast

Like a young woman’s

love-sickness,

darkness had begun

to engulf the world.


After shutting the door,

I sat alone

in the yellow light of candles.


It was then that its

daily, unwelcome visit

came to pass.


Even as I was watching,

it pulled me out

and brought forth

another version of myself.


Before I was startled,

I had finished reading

the book that bore

the imprint of intimacy.


The light beams of my eyes

were fixed on the loose clothes

of the man asleep

in the front room.


Along with the wine

that filled the cup and brimmed over,

my body drowned

and floated to the top.

While I was absorbed

in pleasuring myself, uttering

obscene phrases in a low moan,

hearing the rustle of birds’ wings

the night beast fled,

returning me to myself



Gigantic Trees


Gifted with the cycle

of seasons, my body

ripens and gathers into a heap –

like a mushroom.


Secret organs are carefully woven

onto its front and back.

The smoky aroma of clarified lust

rises from the skin that crawls

with gooseflesh all over.


My body is etched with

lukewarm cheeks, plump

around the yielding waist,

and cowries of desire, arranged

like an upturned triangle.


Arriving now in a misty haze,

a street artiste performing without make-up,

you untie the knots in the front of my bodice.

savouring the breasts that nourished you once;

now you are ashamed even to utter their name.


I brandish the fork of my breasts

as a lethal weapon in combat.

From this day on, you must

serenade aloud from below

those firm, unyielding breasts

which hold aloft the pennant

of this territory under my reign.


It is ages now

since breasts morphed

into gigantic trees.


Untitled


When they skinned the carcass

of a dead cow,

I would chase the crows away.


After eating

the communal food

i collected after waiting

for a long time

outside every home,

I‘d brag that it was

a hot meal I ate.


Encountering my father

on the street

with a funereal drum

slung around his neck,

I’d pass him quickly,

averting my face.


Unable to state

my father’s vocation

and his annual income

in the classroom,

I’d fall victim

to the teacher’s cane.


Sitting friendless

in the back row,

I’d cry secret tears.


But now,

should anyone happen to ask,

I tell them readily:

Yes, I am a pariah girl


Published in Name Me a Word: Indian Writers Reflect on Writing edited by Meena Alexander, Yale University Press, 2018

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