Shash Trevett: a poem



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.