Arundhathi Subramaniam – Mitti

As a child
I ate mud.

It tasted of grit and peat
and wild churning

and something I could never find
a name for.

Later I became
a moongazer

always squinting through

believing freedom
was aerial

until I figured that the moon
was a likely mud-gazer

longing for the thick sludge
of gravity,

the promiscuous thrill
of touch,

the licence to make,
break, remake,

and so I uncovered
the old role of poets —

to be messengers
between moon and mud —

and began to learn the many
languages of earth

that have nothing to do with nations
and atlases

and everything to do
with the ways

of earwigs,
the pilgrim trail of roots

and the great longing of life to hold
and be held,

and the irrepressible human love
of naming:

ooze, mire, manure, humus, dirt, silt
mould, loam, soil, slush, clay, shit,
mannu, matope, barro,
tin, ni, luto, fango …

All have their place, I found,
in the democracy of tongues,

none superior,
none untranslatable,

all reminders
of the anthem

of muck
of which we are made,

except when June clouds capsize
over an Arabian Sea

and a sleeping city
awakens to an ache so singular

that for just a moment
it could have no name

other than that
where sound meets scent

and a slop of matter
meets a slick lunatic wetness:


Just that. Nothing else will do.

From Love Without a Story (Bloodaxe Books, 2020)
Publication Date: Nov 5, 2020

Previous articleArundhathi Subramaniam
Next articleReading second-language writing
Arundhathi Subramaniam
Described as 'one of the finest poets writing in India today’ Arundhathi Subramaniam was born in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1967. She is the author of twelve books, including five volumes of poetry. Widely translated and anthologised, her book, “When God is a Traveller” (2014) was the Season Choice of the Poetry Book Society, shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Her new book of poems, “Love Without a Story” was published in India with Westland Amazon in 2019, and in 2020 with Bloodaxe Books in UK. As editor, her most recent book is the acclaimed Penguin anthology of medieval Indian sacred poetry, “A Book of Bhakti Poetry: Eating God” (2014). As prose writer, her books include “The Book of Buddha”; the bestselling biography of a contemporary mystic, “Sadhguru: More Than a Life” (2013); and most recently, “Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga” (co-authored with Sadhguru). She is the recipient of various Indian and international awards and fellowships, including the inaugural Khushwant Singh Prize, the Raza Award for Poetry, the Zee Women’s Award for Literature, the International Piero Bigongiari Prize in Italy, the Mystic Kalinga award, the Charles Wallace, Visiting Arts and Homi Bhabha Fellowships, among others.