Sharanya Manivannan


Sharanya Manivannan was born in India in 1985, grew up in other places, and currently lives in Chennai. Her book of poems, "Witchcraft" will be published later this year, and she is working on a novel, "Constellation of Scars". As a spoken word artist, she has performed at dozens of venues, from small indie cafes to the Borobudur Temple, Indonesia. In her work, she reclaims the archetype of Karna from the Mahabharata, turning him into a female alter-ego. More about her, including a blog and an events schedule, can be found at http://sharanyamanivannan.wordpress.com

KARNA CONSIDERS LIGHT

My father, the sun,
gave me armour.
How possessive he was,
how proud, for off my metal
he reflected his glory,
blinding the vision
of others' to my true self.
Like all bastard orphans,
I know my father only by his
markings, his misdemeanours.

Still, I worshipped at dawn, watching
him come over the horizon,
the rim of the sky catching fire.
Raised my palms as though
to encircle his face, that
brilliant corona of light.

Then I sought him in the fins
of small fish that caught him
as they trembled in the river.

I sought him in mirrors,
in mornings that I awoke
humming the song of my shadow.

I sought him in texts that promised
illumination, in the infinite
within the flames of little lamps.

I sought him in the bright glinting
of the spokes in the wheels of chariots,
he who moves forward
by the heaving of seven mares.

I found him only in the
darkness of his absence, in
the deep indigo dye of eclipse.

And I have loved the stars
too fondly to be fearful
of the night.

KARNA AND KUNTI

All night there has been
drumming, and chariots
clear the country,
crushing the waterlilies
of ponds they traverse.
Another harvest of bodies,
even the sky burnt a
murdered red as the night fell.
I am surrounded by omens.
Alone, I watch this fire
until it sputters and dies.

I wait in exile.
I break bread in exile.

My mother in the last throes
of the night comes for me
at last. She lowers her cloak,
reveals her crown. There are
palmscripts of wrinkles
on her forehead. Her eyes,
though infinite, are those of
an illiterate's. She takes the brass
pot and holds it to my lips, then
washes my feet. Dries them
with her own unbound hair.
I have always known.
To see her now as before, but as
never before: a crone, a harbinger.
In silence, she lays my head in
her lap. Her touch is rain.
To have never known these
hands… My body fills with
thunder. My simple heart
stands empty.

"Child, warrior sun," she
whispers. She unravels like
a cord the story of my birth.
"What can I sing to you of
but the afterbirth of leaving, the
years spent chasing it down then
delivering it into moondappled water,
waiting for it to drown.

"What can I write to you of but
the vision doubled,
the sundered heart, and
how – a mirrored self riding a lonely trajectory
into a constellation of scars."

She unfolds the favour she desires
little by little, tiered like a handheld fan.

Tomorrow I face my nemesis
on the battlefield. I who am stripped
already of armour. Only one of us
will die, but we will both bleed,
her lotus root in both of us. My brother. My blood.

O mother what can I pray to you for
but the gift of tongue of throat of
voice voice voice as I stand there
mutely screaming
your name your name your name.

 


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