Ilavenil Meena Kandasamy is an Indian poet, fiction writer, translator and activist who is based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. Most of her works are centered on feminism and the anti-caste Caste Annihilation Movement of the contemporary Indian milieu.
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Famous Meena Kandasamy poems
Black satanic fumes
shroud the blank blue skies
in puffing jet black soot;
few flashy cameras record
glimpses of destruction
(for tomorrow’s papers). . .
Our huts are burning—
Regular huts in proper rows.
Dry thatches (conspirators-in-crime)
feed the flames as we rush out
open mouthed hysterical curses
and as if in an answer—
when the blazing work is done
Fire engines arrive . . .
These feverish cries continue
in the same shrilly pitch
echo, echo, echo and
finally reach. . .
Reverberate and sound as loud
as snail shells crackling under nailed boots
and perhaps as distinct and defenseless.
This double catastrophe projected in sights
and shrieks evokes. . .
Those above are (mostly):
Why She Writes Of Her Love
~ with submissive indrawn breath on nights that smell of freshcut red, she writes of a love to which her language denied even words ~
love, he squeeze-spliced into seven types
and threw the two crooked corners away.
lt.col.grammar mapped moods on zones—
meet and mate by mountains, wait within
forests, sulk in pastures, pine away close
to the coast, and desert in deserts. by order.
what came of the margins missing in action?
at first the colonel outlawed unrequited love.
labelled it defected, subnormal, unfit for men
who were men. then at last he crushed
the red-hot rebellion of the rainbow border,
never letting May mix with December, or,
the rich with the poor, or the high with the low.
every mismatch was malady.
it was no country for old men or old women.
sugar daddies and cougars were banished and
the hunchbacked and the handicapped found
themselves in this lacklustre blocklove list.
the rulebook forbade poets to patronize them.
no history—no hyperlinks—no tv—no twitter
no news of this love being refused redemption.
this love, for twisted souls; this love, the lost cause.
Everyone speaks of him.
Hands dancing in air
they gush about the power
of his words his flourishes
of rhetoric his direct approach
his raw reproach his felicity in
ferocious Tamil his three hours in
the sweltering heat rousing
angry young man rally speeches
that make men out of mice and
marauding wildcats out of men
fiery speeches that subvert and
overturn and unseat and revolt
spontaneous speeches that unsettle
states and strongmen and sinister
systems of caste and speeches that
seek to settle scores delivered in
his voice that makes skyscrapers
fall to their knees
He is the greatest orator
in our language today, they say.
I wonder at how easily led people are.
Even I loved his speeches best,
until, one day, seven years ago,
I fell in love with the many registers of his silences.
For an affair:
Trust any man who is allergic to children,
Carries a civil war in his eyes, travels a lot
And speaks up when you are subjected
To society’s customary stone-throwing—
This hero has a history of scandals.
He keeps secrets like slave-girls.
Trust this man to never let you down,
Or stand you up, even if it involves
Rising from the dead. Amen.
Trust a man only after you have dunked
His head in buckets of freezing water.
Trust all the truth spilling out of him
When you have slipped, like soap on skin,
Rusty pins under his toe-nails. Eyes wide open
Trust him as you take him on an electric dance
That makes his p*n*s sing. Test him to trust him.
Detest him to trust him. Trust a man through faith
In all forms of torture, which is how men trust each other.
Scorned, she sought refuge in spirituality,
and was carried away by a new-age guru
with saffron clothes and caramel words.
Years later, her husband won her back
but by then, she was adept at walkouts,
she had perfected the vanishing act.
the pot sees just another noisy child
the glass sees an eager and clumsy hand
the water sees a parched throat slaking thirst
but the teacher sees a girl breaking the rule
the doctor sees a case of medical emergency
the school sees a potential embarrassment
the press sees a headline and a photofeature
dhanam sees a world torn in half.
her left eye, lid open but light slapped away,
the price for a taste of that touchable water.
Once My Silence Held You Spellbound
You wouldn’t discuss me because my suffering
was not theoretical enough. Enough. Enough.
Enough. Now I am theoretical enough.
I am theatrical enough.
I have learnt all these big big words.
I can use them with abandon.
I can misuse them. I can refuse them.
I can throw them about and one day,
I can throw them out.
I am the renegade who can drop
these multi-syllable monsters
for studied, stylistic effect.
I am the rebel who can drop them altogether.
I invent new ones every passing day.
FYI, OED consults me. Roget’s Thesaurus
finds it tough to stay updated.
But because I use these bedeviled words
the way you use me never means
that I have stopped seething in anger
that I have stopped swearing.
Not That One
Find me another word
that is not so ready. I want
a word that waits and weeps
and hesitates, that knows
of other words I kill, and
grows afraid to take its place.
Find me a word that has heard
of a woman afraid of losing a man
she does not have, find me a word
that flinches at the thought of being
trapped, a word that shows me
stealing time, not men.
Find me a word that is not so safe.
A word for a woman in a forest
to wake up with, a woman who
knows heat and long silences
and sleepless nights, a woman
who works with only words.
Not love, dear poet.
Men are afraid of any woman who makes poetry and dangerous portents. Unable to predict when, for what, and for whom she will open her mouth, unable to stitch up her lips, they silence her.
Her pet parrot developed an atrocious fetish for the flesh of sacrificial goats, so, Kulamaayi was bolted within a box and dropped in the Kaveri.
She teased and tormented his celibacy, so Miss Success-Village was thrown into a well by a wandering socialite-godman.
She was inaccessible and unattainable, so, Durga was put in an iron trunk that settled on a riverbed and even the men and women who tried to approach her were informed in a prerecorded voice that she was out of reach and network range and coverage area.
She was an outcast who had all the marks of a fiery orator who would some day run for parliament, so, a nail was driven into her head on the instructions of her brahmin fiancé and her coffin was set adrift in a wailing river.
She was black and bloodthirsty, so, even Kali found herself shut inside her shrine.
They were considerably low-risk, so most other women were locked up at home.
Fifteen, lost in a room
Full of children learning Hindi poetry
For an approaching exam. In a nasal bass
Tthe teacher speaks of some besotted bird
That watches the moon every moment of the night…
I stand up and ask,
What does that bird do on new moon nights?
Peeved by what she thinks is impudence,
The teacher says the bird watches my face.
The class turns all at once, stares at me.
Ashamed, I shrink, I sit.
Twenty-two, lost in any space,
I restlessly seek the strength
Of his shoulders and I hunt
Like a hungry beast to catch a glimpse
Of my coal-black lover, and I crave to look once more
Into his limitless eyes where I sank and never surfaced.
As I desolately count each passing hour,
I become that moon-gazing bird on new moon nights,
I sing the saddest songs of all time, I never ask questions…
Massacre Of The Innocents
indra, chief vedic deity and
indra, who went to work
inside diti’s womb, afraid
she would mother the other,
indra who butchered
her fetus into forty-nine bits,
so that, as the legend goes, they
were reborn as wailing winds.
indra. indra. narindra.
the hindu god of war.
herod merely chopped up male kids
in bethlehem, hitler only gassed
jewish infants in germany, and
the peacekeepers just dipped
tamil babies in boiling tar
but indra indra narendra alone
perfected this science of slaughter,
killing children of the other
before they were even
indra. indra. narendra.
the genocidal god of gods.
A militant, whom my lines
cannot hold whom my lips
cannot kiss whom my eyes
cannot hide whom my memory
cannot mark with a date
of birth or even death.
No knowledge of her village
laid waste, then displaced and
no mention of her songs
seeking to seize a state and
no sigh of a red star where
she had stashed her dreams.
In this book of martyrs
only that blood-drenched
story in three bold words:
‘One Woman Comrade’
to say she died fighting
for the people.
You are sad and you start out sluggishly,
Shedding your gypsy skirts and learning
To dress up in gold and Valentino gowns.
You are playing Patience to pass the time
And you believe every feud has to die out
When the fighters die. You wait for that.
You later learn it does not work this way.
Sitting still in a songless court, you watch
Backlogs and bribes and middlemen grow.
You are unfazed by all the hard work that
Sob stories demand and so you dictate your
Judgments by picking out from a tarot deck.
You give the Ten of Swords to the woman
Paraded naked and to the gang-raped girl.
Self-defeating, dangerous if they ever won.
The Five of Pentacles to a labourer duped
Of her lifetime’s savings and that old trader
Who wears his losses like a brass talisman.
Finally, you hand out the Three of Swords
For a habeas corpus from a maudlin ex-king
Looking for his kidnapped princess-bride.
Your courtroom turns to an ominous circus.
Two shows everyday, entry free. As the
High Priestess you let hope elope with justice.
The rebellious righteous unite against you.
You are handed a Hanged Man and bathed
In bullets. Your sinuous body is cast in stone,
And, to make sure that you never turn blind
Or bored, or fall asleep, each plaintiff applies
A paste of bloodred chillies on your open eyes.
Maari had a one-point goal. Maari had a manic soul.
Maari made her men wage war, with her rapist’s blood,
To drench her hair. And then, and then,
As these stories go, Maari with her heart of stone,
Combed her hair with his left thighbone.
Here they are: the dream-chasers, the fire-stampers:
Souls in sweaty soles, the flaming bare feet
Of men and women (and also, those between) .
Here, the blood-splattered, whip-wrapped ones,
flaunting starry, self-flagellation scars.
Hollering here, the flashes of mortified flesh—
steel hooks piercing stretched skin;
skewers drilled through trembling tongues,
sometimes bridging cheeks, sometimes sealing lips.
Here, the hearts beat in answer to hysterical drumming.
Here, the bleeding is blessed.
And here, for Maari, the pain is prayer enough.
Facing The Music
Your lover was lynched
For one of those readily available reasons.
Too weak for suicide, too mute for murder
You live. Post-traumatically, poetically.
You live as if he has never died.
Shell-shocked, spellbound, your third eye
Clamped shut to keep the nightmare away,
Your blood bears the salt of withheld tears.
Never do you mention that your man—so alive
Even when being set alight—was humbled
Into handfuls of ash and defiant bones.
You turn deaf to face this faulty music,
You sacrifice all sleep to live this fragile dream.
You’ve sworn to never let him wander out of sight.
You hold him captive in your shattered,
Unwavering world and he, like a flame,
Ceaselessly flickers, so your eyes too dance,
And your moonglow in his ghostly presence
Makes poets sing of how, once upon a time,
Beauty basked in the light of her undying Love.
An angry philosopher froze
His philandering wife—Passivity
As punishment for promiscuity.
Rendered senseless, set in stone,
She stared in unceasing surprise
As her sagely husband toured
The world with his treatises on
What pleasure meant to women
And a powerpoint presentation
That showed close-up photos
Of her fixed phantom face.
He painstakingly pointed out
The moment of arrival of ecstasy
In the stone-dead statue—
A coming that was a curse.
A coming, he claimed, like that
Of mortified mystics, which
She would never know.
Other women grasped the game.
They knew no man would ever
Let them be, ever set them free.
So, when asked, they answered
With wide-eyed wonder
Yes yes yes o yes yes yes
O yes yes yes yes yes yes
Flesh Finds A Form Of Address
Gathering flowers for another garland,
Anorexic Andal flaunts
Her freshness before Thirumal.
Lying on her back—waiting
To be full, filled and fulfilled—
Mira sings a siren-song
To summon Krishna.
Emerging from the river—
Tying her hair in a top-knot,
Akka Mahadevi rehearses
Crushing Shiva on her pitcher breasts.
The Hindu He-poet too dreams
Of his goddess: Her breasts, to him,
Are golden globes, and
Cone-shaped copper vessels, and
Big as the mount Meru, and
Grown so heavy they threaten
Her slender, creeper-like waist.
Eyes crinkled to a close, he chants
Her praise, he sees lights. He wakes up,
Drool and morning wood in place,
And calls this beautiful goddess,
Dead Woman Walking
i am a dead woman walking asylum corridors,
with faltering step, with felted, flying hair,
with hollowed cheeks that offset bulging eyes,
with welts on my wrists, with creasing skin,
with seizures of speech and song, with a single story
between my sobbing, pendulous breasts.
once i was a wife: beautiful,
married to a merchant: shifty-eyed.
living the life, until he was lost in listless doubt—
of how, what i gave him was more delicious
than whatever, whatever had been given to me.
his mathematics could never explain
the magic of my multiplying love—this miracle—
like materializing mangoes out of thin air,
like dishing out what was never there.
this discrepancy drove him away:
a new job in another city.
he hitched himself to a fresh and formless wife.
of course, as all women do, i found out.
i wept in vain, i wailed, i walked on my head, i went to god.
i sang in praise of dancing dervishes, i made music
for this world to devour on some dejected day.
i shed my beauty, i sacrificed my six senses.
some called me mad, some called me mother
but all of them led me here,
to this land of the living-dead.
Speech Comes After Swallowing
after many afternoons on my knees
i pinned him down to lychee
with a woody waft of liquorice.
but centuries into servitude
how does a language taste and
tabulate another mighty one?
does this tongue feel under stubborn flesh,
the haste and hardness of the other?
learn to fight its reflexes against force?
do power yoga, twisting/turning,
does it read and research forbidden
fetishes? wait for the sacred wetness?
or does it grow dry too soon?
pleasure-filled, does it clap to applaud,
squeal in delight, or, take shelter
in open-lipped, vowel-based,
does it remember the trips it took
across this terrain of shape?
does it dream of choices?
does it matter at all, to these tired tongues,
that in one sucking, long-dead language
s*m*n was named after
Six hours of chastity
The day dies abruptly.
Nalayani, most chaste of womankind,
Carries the basket-case of a husband
To his favorite prostitute’s place.
She sits in a veranda of the brothel and
Someone who saunters in mistakes the devout
Wife to be a mistress of guilt, a woman of night.
She plays along, she pretends to this visiting stranger,
This wayfaring man, who suffers and seeks salvation
By day, but wants to buy a willing woman for the night.
The second seems as different, and as indifferent, and
As she acts out a wh*re, money is a matter of ritual,
Shining, it appears at her side. Enter the third man.
Spice vendor, smelling of sweat on cinnamon bark,
Six-fingered on each hand. A wife for every finger
On the right, a city to stop at, for fingers on the left.
The next is lean as a knife, he wears black. At eighteen
It is a rite of passage. He twists. He turns. He shuts
His eyes as he thinks he soars and spills. Exit the fourth.
To increase the number of his sins against recoiling skin,
To drown his sorrow and his loss, to fight the knaves
Who make him what he is, in walks the gambler.
“After the fifth man, every woman becomes a temple.”
In the darkest-hour before dawn, the priest enters there,
Enters her, to make love to her leftovers, fidgeting in his
Guilt and cowardice, like the clinking of holy cymbals.
And the sun is born into the arms of a defiled night. . .
Six men, one for every hour of night.
A waiting angel, she picks up her husband,
(Who lies, clay-like and clumsy in his basket)
Not bothered to serve out spite or spew her hate.
Six men, one for every hour of night.
And on the way home, as his weight cuts her
Shoulder blades, she laughs and cries and laughs
Again, at the lightness of her burden, the end of fate.
This poem is not a Hindu.
This poem is eager to offend.
This poem is shallow and distorted.
This poem is a non-serious representation of Hinduism.
This poem is a haphazard presentation.
This poem is riddled.
This poem is a heresy.
This poem is a factual inaccuracy.
This poem has missionary zeal.
This poem has a hidden agenda.
This poem denigrates Hindus.
This poem shows them in poor light.
This poem concentrates on the negative aspects of Hinduism.
This poem concentrates on the evil practices of Hinduism.
This poem asserts its moral right to use objectionable words for Gods.
This poem celebrates Krishna’s freedom to perch on a naked woman.
This poem flames with the fires of a woman hungry of sex.
This poem supplies sexual connotations.
This poem puts the phallus back into the picture.
This poem makes the shiva lingam the male sexual organ.
This poem does not make the above-mentioned organ erect.
This poem prides itself in its perverse mindset.
This poem shows malice to Hinduism for Untouchability and misogyny.
This poem declares the absence of a Hindu canon.
This poem declares itself the Hindu canon.
This poem follows the monkey.
This poem worships the horse.
This poem supersedes the Vedas and the supreme scriptures.
This poem does not culture the jungle.
This poem jungles the culture.
This poem storms into temples with tanks.
This poem stands corrected: the RSS is BJP’s mother.
This poem is not vulnerable.
This poem is Section 153-A proof.
This poem is also idiot-proof.
This poem quotes Dr.Ambedkar.
This poem considers Ramayana a hetero-normative novel.
This poem breaches Section 295A of the Indian Penile Code.
This poem is pure and total blasphemy.
This poem is a voyeur.
This poem gossips about the sex between Sita and Laxman.
This poem is a witness to the rape of Shurpanaka.
This poem smears Rama for his suspicious mind.
This poem was once forced into suttee.
This poem is now taking her revenge.
This poem is addicted to eating beef.
This poem knows the castes of all the thirty-three million Hindu Gods.
This poem got court summons for switching the castes of Gods.
This poem once dated Karna who was sure he was no test-tube baby.
This poem is not curious about who-was-the-father.
This poem is horizontally flipped.
This poem is a plagiarised version.
This poem is selectively chosen.
This poem is running paternity tests on Hindutva.
This poem saw Godse (of the RSS) kill Gandhi.
This poem is not afraid of being imprisoned.
This poem does not comply to client demands.
This poem is pornographic.
This poem will not tender an unconditional apology.
This poem will not be Penguined.
This poem will not be pulped.