From the archives — But Skin Is Different by Rajani Radhakrishnan

But Skin Is Different

There are indentations in the blue
porcelain like impressions on soft
wax where it was held softly, when

the tea was warm, for a while, and it
would not stop raining. We leave marks
on things that least expect it, on a passing

wing, on yellow afternoons, on the serrated
silhouette of leaves against a midnight
moon, on time standing on one leg, back

against the far wall, waiting. Truth is a
collage of careless fingerprints, the rain can
draw your picture from the way your hand

caressed the clouds, but skin is different,
naked skin can be cleansed, memory carries
the deliberate guilt of sieved pain. This tea is

cold, a level certainty in an imperfect cup, it
is only mid-June, the sun flattens like an
unleavened candle, and it will not stop raining.

by Rajani Radhakrishnan

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, June 20, 2018

But Skin Is Different by Rajani Radhakrishnan

But Skin Is Different

There are indentations in the blue
porcelain like impressions on soft
wax where it was held softly, when

the tea was warm, for a while, and it
would not stop raining. We leave marks
on things that least expect it, on a passing

wing, on yellow afternoons, on the serrated
silhouette of leaves against a midnight
moon, on time standing on one leg, back

against the far wall, waiting. Truth is a
collage of careless fingerprints, the rain can
draw your picture from the way your hand

caressed the clouds, but skin is different,
naked skin can be cleansed, memory carries
the deliberate guilt of sieved pain. This tea is

cold, a level certainty in an imperfect cup, it
is only mid-June, the sun flattens like an
unleavened candle, and it will not stop raining.

by Rajani Radhakrishnan

Editor’s Note: The philosophical musing of the narrator in this poem is emphasized by the surreality of the imagery. Some poems are meant to be experienced, not untangled.

Washing by Rajani Radhakrishnan

Washing

These poems are like washing hung on the line, they might
tell you about the shape of my body, or places I went to last

week or that I will buy anything in grey. Watching from your
second floor balcony, you probably laughed over that Bengal

cotton phase from last year, row after row of freshly starched
pastel sarees tangling with the breeze or worse, that summer of

distressed jeans, alright, I apologise for those. But you still don’t
know enough, not enough to walk across and ring my doorbell,

not enough to know what I think, about anything real, anybody
real, you don’t know where I dry my clothes during those long

monsoon months, you’re never close enough to hear those
endjambed screams, never careful enough to read the words

that do not fall in line, are never told enough to know the things
you never can be told, what if I tell you about this shirt, about

this poem that I wrote as I lay awake in the small of the night,
wondering why silence, real silence, itches like dirty laundry.

by Rajani Radhakrishnan

Editor’s Note: Unexpected enjambments, line to line and stanza to stanza, contradict the casual voice of the speaker, and force the reader to pay close attention to the narrative (and especially the closing line).

Ritual of Departure by Rajani Radhakrishnan

Ritual of Departure

I walk this dying year slowly down to the edge. You laugh, tell
me I am holding his shrivelled arm too tight, he totters now, his

voice feeble, not that he has anything left to say. I wait for him
to crumble to ashes so I can hand him back to ocean that birthed

him, how many times have we done this here, how many times
have we stood at this door, me empty-hearted, this silent Bay

of Bengal, waiting in seeming nonchalance, wave after wave,
counting down the seconds. Remember the time he was broken

before the winter solstice, I brought him in pieces, in black plastic
bags, parts missing, and once, long ago, when I did not want to

let him go- all that crusted angst has turned blue wine to salt, yet
this sea burns the fire of a new day in her belly, our ancient ritual

of departure coloured with the blood of arrival. I turn back,
cleansed, eviscerated, clutching the arm of the wind, already

filling with fragments of sunshine and sand. You laugh, tell me
I am holding on too tight, even hollowness has to let go, to fly.

by Rajani Radhakrishnan

Editor’s Note: The surreality in this poem heightens the emotional resonance of the lines.