Q&A / Priya Sarukkai Chabria

Q. Why don’t you drop your face in the pool and walk away to find another you?

A. Watch the water.  See how it foams. See my face reshape on the surface.

Q. Why don’t you be your own eclipse and eat ache’s glare bit by bit?

A. What’s that you see? A newborn extinguished me or a bitten  scimitar dangling in velveteen blue.       

Q. Why don’t you forgive without forgetting, as the Buddha  said?

A.  I’ll be a wraith of untruth. 

Q. Will a stray you once fed recognize your shadow smoking  across the street? Or a spider you let escape?

A. Perhaps a door I slammed will remember me. There’s always hope. 

Q. Is there a camouflage that never clears?

A. I dug the sky for this. I’m wearing it.

Q. What if you stop smelling of loathing?

A.  I will walk my dog in the park.

Q. You know how to cry in every language. Why is it difficult to  leave yourself?

A.  I’ve posted for a translator who knows this tongue. Specialist are expensive.

Q. Has the fire escape melted?  Why does art leap out of the  window when there’s no terrorist attack, only collapse?

A. I’m re-growing my eyes to see if the lake still holds a cup of  stars.

Q. Are you trussed in your vanished reflection?

A. My reflection crouches in the well’s bed. But I’ve forgotten how to dive.

Q. What are your dues?

A. I wonder who will decipher the beloved’s smoke signals. The  plants in the balcony need to be watered. Two books to return to the library.  There’s a half-finished bottle of wine in the fridge.         

Q. Is there a fair way of being human?

A. Lightning flashes and lightning strikes. 

Q. Why doesn’t admitting to total defeat do?

A. Picture gauze curtains streaming in light. Picture a gust. Tell me if the curtains don’t flap.

Q. Are you recyclable?

A. Depends on what you mean. If it’s the plastic in me, no. If it’s my hair, kidneys, eyes, heart, blood, possibly yes.  My bones can be carved into tourist mementoes. My longings –

  absolutely: I want to be you.             

 Q. Can smoke turn to vapour turn to rain turn to drench again?

A. Atoms move randomly in the wilderness of space.

Q. When the mother tongue is deleted from the body what happens?

A. There’s space. It’s called grace. 

Q. What happened to the love you stored in your camel hump?

A. My heart’s tarred. If it cracks open, I can again belong to any species.  Then I’ll say, ‘I will be true to you. Whatever comes.’ I want to say this.

Excerpted from Calling Over Water (2019), Poetrywala, to be available online shortly.


Priya Sarukkai Chabria is an awarding winning translator of medieval Tamil mystic poetry; long and short speculative fiction on writing, sex, history and our past lives as animals; a book of non-fiction and poetry. Her third poetry collection Calling Over Water is forthcoming by the year end. Her work is published in Adelphiana, Another English: Anglophone Poetry From Around the World, Drunken Boat, Asymptope, The Literary Review, The Best of Asian Speculative Fiction,The Literary Review among others. She edits Poetry at Sangam http://poetry.sangamhouse.org/

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