Two Poems of Sundara Ramaswamy


Words addressed to an army commander-in-chief

I am writing into my blood
your order that as soon as we cross over
we must demolish the bridge.
Your excellency,
horses jostling muzzle to buttock
we are crossing the bridge
even now.

When the last horse has gone over
the bridge will plunge into the river
and sink.

One soldier alone waits without crossing
in order to bring you this news.
He has not asked
how he will join us again.
He has not asked
whether there will be any bridges left to cross.
He has not asked
if I will still be here when he brings you the message.
He has not asked
if his horse will still be here.
He has not asked
whether you will be there, waiting.

Your excellency,
to demolish the bridge is no big deal.
But these unasked questions
What about their demolition?

Other Presence

The wide stone pillar standing opposite
prevents me from eating
the tandoori roti upon my plate.
When I sought out
this single empty seat
in the over-flowing restaurant
I had not imagined
the pillar’s mischief.

I only congratulated myself
upon the quality of the food —
just as good, even if I sat alone.

Now this pillar
hides my face, obscures the whole street,
slides its great shadow upon my plate,
presses its image against my chest,
grows into monstrous proportions between
the tandoori roti and my mouth.

my presence, my situation and my very nature clash,
smash, scatter into smithereens,
while I scream
I cannot eat a stone pillar.

Who is the madman out there,
comes the manager’s voice.

(Translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom)

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