New Words, New Clothes
I discarded the words first.
And then, for a while, mute silence.
I watched and learnt like a mynah bird.
அ became A
ஈ became E
ஐ I changed
to a short, sharp I.
After a while through whispers and croaks
new words emerged
in the borrowed tongue of a borrowed land.
Tentative, tiny and uncomplicated
brand new, pain-free little words.
Their strange scrolls flowed around me.
F was once a little Fish
Z was once a piece of Zinc
X was once a great king Xerxes
For the first time I formed an F, wrote
a Z, sounded an X. In the borrowed tongue
of a borrowed land I dressed myself in them.
I abandoned two millennia
of poetry, mythology and history.
No Pallavan or Cholan could claim sovereignty
over my mouth, my tongue, my mind.
In the borrowed tongue of a borrowed land
in single, stuttering, borrowed syllables
I began to talk again
and the new words began to flow.
This poem is from Shash's forthcoming pamphlet, From a Borrowed Land, which will be published by The Poetry Business on 1st May 2021.