Four Good Words: Sivakami Velliangiri

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Sivakami Velliangiri’s first poems were published in Youth Times in 1977 and ’78. She has been invited to read at ‘The Semester-At-Sea from Pittsburgh,’ and Muse India’s ‘Hyderabad Literary Festival.’ Her poems have been featured in four Anthologies. Her electronic Chapbook ‘’In My Midriff’, was published by The Lily Review. ‘How We Measured Time’ is her first book of poems.


The first time grandma wore a blouse,
she felt she had tarnished her brown skin.
All the men folk knew of the thin bare shoulders.
She ran to the temple and confessed
that she had merely obeyed the Maharani’s orders.
Sure she had lost her native natural gloss
when she carried rice pots on her head
(the anthapura boasted a female barber
who shaved off armpits and whatever).
The Maharani bade her women wear blouses
even to the temple. What my grandma missed
was the breeze on her skin. What she acquired
was a certain coy feeling and a sense of hiding
which was akin to sin.
[The anthapura was the harem of an Indian palace.]

Silent Cooking and Noisy Munching
When I came to my husband’s hometown
I saw for the first time old women with gagged mouths
cooking for the gods, in silence.
Their breath did not pollute the offerings,
nor their spittle desecrate the dishes
only their arms swayed and perhaps their eyeballs.
I thought how unlike the witches of Macbeth
they looked, for these women moved about with grace
their mind fine tuned to the Dhivya Prasadam.
Not any woman can cook for the gods.
One must be chaste and pure, like unadulterated ghee
boil like jaggery and rise like milk. In short,
it takes thirty years to graduate.
So for thirty years I have done my silent cooking
made manna with words and said simply
in my heart of hearts, eat god eat
line by line, crunchy words, palatable punctuations
tangy rhythms moulded with meaning, and
thoughts weaned in silence but spoken as poems.

What She Said to Her Girlfriend
Though my lord has given me
a palace in every city
to match the seasonal mood
with interiors like an Inside Outside magazine
and furniture that speaks of star war design
I wish he had also thought of a poison apple tree
at the back door of the house
where I could whisper and confess to it
all he had done to me the previous night.


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