Pillaiyar

by
August 2022, no. 445

Pillaiyar

by
August 2022, no. 445

– that’s Ganesh to you – is pictured                        
with a broken tusk: why?

The tale was added
late on
to the Mahabharata.

Vyasa, author
requiring a scribe
asked that noble child with an elephant’s head.

Only, replied the god,
if once begun we do not cease …
my pen mustn’t rise from the page.

So the poem became
difficult: Vyasa improvised                     
knotty passages

Pillaiyar had to pause and parse
– while he, Vyasa, also took
a breath.
                                    When the pen broke

Vyasa, as promised, kept unrolling
that wonderfully embroidered carpet of verse ...
The elephant-god had no choice.

He snapped off his tusk,
dipped the end in ink and wrote with that.
Since then, all writing, everywhere, has this character.

It can’t decide whether to speed up or slow down. It wants you
to understand. Then it plays hide and seek. There are two people here,
even before you arrive – playing tug-of-war.

Impulse and form. Breath and language.
And since the pen is a torn-out tooth
red between the lines
                                                                        you’ll taste blood

From the New Issue

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