Murugan Poems

01 December, 2013

ABOUT THE POEMS Kala Krishnan Ramesh’s exquisite triad of poems takes as its subject the crisscrossing traffic between the eternal triangle of god, self, and society. At their centre is Murugan, the beloved god of the Tamils, enshrined in a tradition so ancient, and a set of rituals so elaborate, that both the deity (who can be capricious) and the poet (who can be unworldly) seem agreed in wanting to disrupt it. In the opening poem, the world prepares a vast welcome in anticipation of Murugan, except the poet, who chooses silence and seclusion, certain that “the stream of grace” will reach her in this state and none other. Possessed by love of the god, she is a mystery to the people around her, a state explored by other speakers in the second and third poems. Religious devotion and poetic ecstasy, it would appear, are related states, but what is marvellous in a god may be maddening in a human being, especially when she is a woman. Ramesh’s switches of perspective, single and choric voices, and shifts across formal and colloquial registers fuse the god-directedness of prayer and the self-focussed inwardness of the lyric poem.



It’s all ready: there’s a

canopy, showers of flowers

waiting to fall over your grace,

elephants, trumpets, crowds

of admirers

and at the end of the long

red carpet,

there’s a grand throne.


On my page

the elephants have lain

down, the crowds have gone

home, the flowers are dead,

the trumpeters have retired,

the red carpet’s rolled up,

the canopy taken away

for another gathering.

There’s nothing

on my page.

Knowing you,

I know that nearing sound

is your feet vending towards

me; any moment now, I know

you will arrive and say: I was

a bit delayed; I’m sorry,

I’d like to eat now.

It’s a pain

knowing you,

Guha, who plants and waters


What the neighbours are saying about the poet

What’s the crazy poet doing


standing on the cliff


talking to no-one,


up at the sun,


down to the bottom

of the

hill, then

back again, up,


the golden temple


There’s not a day when we

don’t have to be worrying

about the poet’s


Will she jump?

Will she starve?

Will she trail

after pilgrims,

far out of

town into lands


Will she defy

the king, again

and again manage

to get let off

being impaled

to death?

So many terrible things could

happen each day, but the one

thing we never have to worry

about is

Will the poet run

out of words



Will she

be unaware

of innovations

in grammar?

Will the stream

of grace

dry up? In all

these years, we’ve

known, her, that

has not


It’s as if there was a contract

between the god on tall Palani

hill and the poet, that:

she will keep

him well

entertained with

daily doses of




he will keep

her well

stocked with

potential dangers.

The twist in

the tale is that

neither the poet,

nor the audience

is ever certain

how and when

the god will

come to save


Perhaps one day, we’ll see the

god on the other side of these


Perhaps one day, the god will

appear to thank us for minding

the poet’s days.

Perhaps the poet will put us into a

poem, and the god will point out

to the world that while the poet

laboured at her verses, we were

labouring at being neighbourly.

Perhaps, this will save us from the

cycle of fear and death.

What her mother said to the new neighbours



I am

her mother.

And I tell you

it is no easy job.

She’s always been like

this, and we’ve learnt to

let her be. There was a time

when we feared and fretted.

Now, the elders say to us Who

knows what it is she hears and sees.

Maybe she can hear Him speak; maybe

he’s listening to all her verses. When the

bees work and their hives go up on high trees

we never see how the god of bees, he too works

along. When she songs, the elders have said, they

sense the god  leaning down from his hill, his eyes

following the curves, the slants, the run of letters on

her leaves, and when she has written something that does

not please him, he sends a little winded dust into her eyes,

and the stylus stops and scratches and she knows to cut that

leaf from its bundle and take another; when she’s made a song

he likes, that’s when the kadamba bursts into blossom and we can

hear the peacocks calling from afar. As you see, we’ve learnt to house

her madness. The wise ones tell us that when she’s leaning against the side

of our kadamba tree, like that, she’s waiting for a sign from him that the song

she’s just finished is okay and she can start a new one.

You probably think we are wrong to let her grow her madness, to not look for a

cure, get her married so she can do what she is dutied to, but believe me we’ve tried

so many times and each time it seems the god on Palani does not will it, for every time she’s

become better, she’s become so much better that she’s not herself any more. She neither hungers

nor thirsts nor even knows that she is who she is or that I am her mother.  Yes, I am her mother

& it’s not easy. Sometimes I feel the god on Palani has decided he wants to be her mother; for a

god like him, that would be an easy job. Let him have it all.

Kala Krishnan Ramesh studied English literature at Bangalore University, worked as a freelance journalist for some years and now teaches in the Communication Studies department of a Bangalore college. The poems in this issue are part of a manuscript of 50 poems, titled He is Honey, Salt and the Most Perfect Grammar.