Sunday 10 April 2022

Five Poems by Gopikrishnan Kottoor



Dead Bee


There's a dead bee on the floor.

Every time I pass it by,

It looks like a word

Torn off an old Bible.

Every time

I pass it by

I tell myself

Next time.

Next time

I'll throw it out of the window.

Small thing.

Ain't a big problem.


Who remembers

The miles it travelled,

The honey it picked

Along the way,

The things it did

Along the way,

To satiate the garden flowers,

Who remembers,

Who'll pick it up,


To give

A dead bee,

For all the honey,

It gave the world,

A decent burial?



It Doesn't Matter


It doesn't matter.

This is not the first time.

I guess this is the way

Words run into forests,

Climb mountains,

And swim the rivers and the seas.

This is not the first time

That you seek

To hide.

To find excuses, saying,

You thought it was water,

Not wine.

But you were mine, oh yes,

Mark that line,

As you undressed love

Like a negligee

And went nude to your bed.

It was easy when you woke up,

Everything was shed.

How easy

To bite that fruit

Always looking for your lips,

And taste it,

Round the bend.

It was bright

it was light,

It was all dream shine.

You loved it

And drank all that


And you knew you were

In my mind,

And would be

Till eternity

Drew the line.

But that was already,

A hive where bees came to dine.

All the rest is honey.

And you know the truth,

We know it between us,

All that sweetness

You had me bake

With dead bees.





I often drive by

That familiar road.

Same car. And when I’m back in places,

Where you are there in the valley

Your hundred faces

In the sun's piano light

Doing their appearing act again.

I stop,

And let you rain.

I turn to the left.

Empty seat.

I get that urge again

To kiss the cushion

To get at your hair

All over me again.

Same distance.

But the heart has reset the clock work,

And what was just miles,

Is now all smilestones

In light years.





I read, all that red,

Of the hearts of poets,

They had nothing else to say,

But of that red that bled,

That was born of lips, that had now gone to bay.  Of cheeks, that turned amber, without warning,

That so long lay gold.

Ah, the hearts of poets,

They must more muddied get,

All wet, lose glitter,

But her ink,

That without a wink

Writes sleep,

That writes waking,

That writes all those kitten- drowned lines.

It must be all red, always read,

Wayward things,

The ways her hair stings

The passing breeze,

Her one careless word

That arc lights

A Timeless solitude of poetry.



Great Grandmother

Great grandmother in her younger days

Was a beautiful lady.

Many were the students who would stand by the corridors

To wish her ‘Good morning Madam’ In the misty Delhi mornings

Nearly two hundred years before.

Great Grandmother taught Shakespeare,

Her favourite was ‘The Tempest’

An Avon edition in silky white pulp

With a bright balding Shakespeare

Looking strangely handsome

That she read every night

Before turning to sleep,

Like the Gita or the Bible

And kept under her pillow.

By then, great grand mother

Was already a widow.

In her late twenties

As she waited at the village railway station,

What greeted her out of the sleeper coach

Of the late-night train,

Was the railway coffin, with her husband in it.

He had died on the way.

Great grandmother

Then went back to do her post-graduation.

Back to Shakespeare. Marry again? Never.

He was my life, she would say.

‘The few moments with him

Are my eternity’.

It was a great code to us

That put her on purity’s pedestal.

She became our fairy tale of chastity.

Grandmother rose to become

The Head of the Department of English.

She lived all her life

In a girl’s hostel,

helping students to write British


And poetry.

When grandmother retired,

She came back to Kerala,

All her relations welcomed her Wishing, that all her life wealth

Would be theirs.

They gave her all she wanted, plantains dipped in honey,

But grandmother would have none of that.

Nothing of her wealth.

Even the fruit of her mango trees

became bank FDs.

One day while climbing the wooden stairs of her ancestral home,

Great grandmother slipped and fell. She broke her spine.

The doctors said

She would never rise again.

I remembered then,

great grandmother, standing before my old Click 3 camera

By the hanging blossoms of the Chinese lanterns. She was still beautiful

At 78. A kind of Portia.

That was when she fell. Independent soul,

great grandmother, she said she would lie in an ashram,

To die. She would not burden

Any relative. To the ashram

She would give all her wealth.

You come alone, she mumbled,

You go all alone.

Soon, all her relations, they said, Stingy, dirty, old selfish woman,

No wonder her husband died young.

No wonder she broke her spine.

God did right.

We’ll have nothing to do any more with her.

Time lays big eggs in the desert

And life scoops them down in the dust.

Thirty years later

I visited my great grandmother at the ashram.

She’d been lying in bed for thirty years now,

Bed sores sun flowering about her spine,

That the ashram mates washed at guest-time.

She lay, her open eyes

Rolling up the old teak ceiling, Completely blind.

She was told by the holy sister of the benevolent ashram,

Akka, your favourite grandnephew has come.

In a room that smelt of sudden Dettol

And tulsi trying to outsmart all pus,

Great grandmother held me tenderly by my hand,

(The same touch that gave me

such a beating l’ll not forget

The night I tried to

Dislodge ‘The Tempest’ from underneath her pillow)

And she kept mumbling to me,

You have come

You have at last come,

I waited for you so long I knew you would come I knew you would find me.

Now I can die,

I can die in peace

God will not put me to test any longer,

My time has come,

My time has at last come

God will not let me suffer any longer.

Her cataract eyes flitted like silver butterflies.

That afternoon as I drove back among the paddy fields diamonding rain

amongst its tiny flowers,

The rain wipers momentarily

Clearing glass,

I dreamt my dream.

It was all,

About God, all about the earth’s seasons, all about you and me,

Why the seas churn the sands choking our lives

Immersing us in tidal grandeur,

Why all this benevolence of fire

Blossoming us

In its burns.


Gopikrishnan Kottoor's recent poetry features in Best Asian Poetry, 2021,  The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary  Indian Poets, The Golden Jubilee anthology  of Indian Poetry in English, Year Book of Indian Poetry in English, Converse, 75 years of  English  Poetry  by Indians,  among others. Among his notable prizes for poetry  is  the All India- British Council Poetry Prize . His latest poetry collection ‘Swan Lake’ has just been released . He is presently working on the English translation of the Malayalam pastoral classic, Ramanan.  He edits the online poetry journal 







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