Sridala Swami

Sridala Swami’s poetry and fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Drunken Boat, DesiLit, and Wasafiri; and in anthologies including The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (ed. Jeet Thayil, UK: Bloodaxe, 2008); Not A Muse Anthology (ed. Katie Rogers and Viki Holmes, Hong Kong: Haven Books, 2009) and in First Proof: 4 (India: Penguin Books, 2009). Swami’s first collection of poems, A Reluctant Survivor (India: Sahitya Akademi, 2007, rp 2008), was short-listed for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award in 2008. Swami’s second solo exhibition of photographs, Posting the Light: Dispatches from Hamburg, opened at Kalakriti Art Gallery, Hyderabad, in November 2009.




Give sleep a chance and know while you do
that very little separates it from death. Rent
your language by the night. Pay your dues:


plant your dreams and watch them grow. Consent
to their eventual departure and separate view
of you from where they stand. Discard resentment:


wear your vocabulary like a badge. Few
dreams can survive their naming. Fragments
of your days dissolve and separate into


impossibilities. Try not to prevent
whatever happens. What happens is, you  

will find, your days and nights are never congruent.


Of Clairvoyance

Squelch is not a word heard
under water. Elephants
sink and suck their legs out
of the mud their bellies arches  
and beyond, a new world:
green-grey, tenebrous
weeds float like visions
behind the eyes of drowned
bodies or like harbingers of
lost sight.
The ground beneath their feet
not yours.
Breathe, breathe
beyond the last breath.
Tumble into the amphibious.
Clear and buoyant is the sky:
the elephants know this with one
half of their bodies.
With the other they see through mud
and see it for what it is.
All visions begin upturned and colloidal.