Gopikrishnan Kottoor is an award winning poet. His prizes include the All India Poetry prize, British Council, (Special Prize, Best Theme, Second Prize, General Category, and three times commendations) among others. He has been included in The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poetry in English (UK), The Golden Jubilee Anthology of Indian Poetry in English (National Book Trust), Special issue on Indian Poetry in English, Verse, Seattle, USA, and other significant anthologies. He attended the MFA (Poetry) Southwest Texas University, USA on a McCormick scholarship. His poem ‘Father, Wake us in Passing, was translated and published into German and read across Universities in Europe on a Residency from the University of Augsburg, Germany. He has published in leading poetry magazines in India and abroad, such as The Illustrated Weekly of India, Kavya Bharati, Orbis (UK), Kavi India, Chandrabhaga, Opinion, Quest, New Quest, Debonair, Toronto Review (Canada), Ariel (Canada), Arabesques (Africa), Plaza (Japan), Nth position (UK), New English Review (UK) among many others. The blog version of his book of poems Vrindavan can be accessed at gopikrishnankottoor.blogspot.com. He is the founder and editor of Poetry Chain. He presently edits the ezine www.undergroundflowers.com. He has published twelve books and his oeuvre includes poetry, novels, children’s books, plays, transcreations, poetry editions and translations. He often reviews poetry for the Hindu literary supplement. He works as General Manager in the Reserve Bank of India, Trivandrum.
The Mad Woman in the Shiva Temple
She is tantric with her young hands
Erect for a grief between her Shiva and her eyes.
For hours she has been standing
On one leg.
Her saffron robe dusts His third eye
In the shape of Agni.
She knows a man who seized her lips,
Who ripped open her breasts like a purse
Digging away its gold.
Now, what is love, Shiva, my Rudra?
Is it all about stealing the body?
Is it endlessly spearing the cleft
Between my growing moons
After that hangover
Between parted thighs?
You know it all, Rudra
Then why do you not speak?
Between you and me
There’s nothing left to hide.
The one who took away all my gold
What did he gain?
What do we all gain, my Rudra
Except six feet underground?
The priest goes about his way
He doesn’t even see her
As he fills Shiva with fresh bael leaves
Covering his third eye.
And Shiva sends her his gift
The small white snake upon his matted hair
Gliding upon the hollow of her cheek
Taking her six feet beneath,
Into New moon darkness.
The Attic of the Gods
I still remember the attic of the Gods.
I had to climb the wooden stairs up
Where the step once broke and fell away,
Bringing down grandmother to the bottom-floor,
Dead. Careful not to slip,
The climb led to a childhood’s serendipp’d
Waking dream. The coloured window glass
Interned with playing card aces brought the sun in
Like tiny drops of blood upon pains tranquilized stain.
In the silence, low bats waded in brown ocean waves,
A thousand together, but not one touching the other,
Their red eyes battled with counts of the night dead.
Nothing could stop that motion,
Not even a funeral pyre.
And I glided beneath,
Under the fanning of the thousand wings,
Graceful as peace beneath an earthquake,
And reached out for my long haired one
With his celestial bow hung on his broken shoulder,
And chaste wife fused upon his breast,
About to set out to Chitrakoot.*
Now it was time to wipe their tears,
And I, in hot bat weather under the sand rain,
Cradled my god, like one new born upon my lap,
Who would set out on the morrow
For fourteen years of exile
To keep his dying father’s word,
Helping him find his broken arm.
*The forest of Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh, India, is famous for its significant role in the exile of the Hindu God Sri Rama, the avatar of Sri Krishna.
By the Ganges
Three doves and a crow turn oval in the fading light
Of pink fire at the mouth of the Ganga.
Upon the slipping ghat underwater,
The bleach of lonely feet grips mortal terror.
Washed white, widowed breasts pale to starfish
Abandoned upon longing shores of their husbands crackling on the pyres .
In the heart of prayer, each eye upon its capstan of grief,
Turns, tossing death’s fungus into Time’s bread.