A Song for Mattur and Hosehalli

Two almost-forgotten villages
stretch on either side of the Tunga.

Here, centuries of exile have created a lineage
that speaks remnants of a faraway tongue,

borrowed vocabulary from others,
made the land’s syllables her own

and invented a dialect that sings
even as she speaks. She owns no poetry —

perhaps that is why verses seep
into everyday conversations.

But it is the kitchens you must visit
if you really want to know her soul

for this is where she wins strangers
over with just the warmth of coffee.

Today, her children live across continents
and send back picture postcards of their new families.

Under a 150 year old roof,
the older generation places

the smile of the new-born
on a wooden cradle as old,

and recites her name over and over again:


Unlearning in Mattur

This is where decades of urban intelligence
comes to a slow, silence.

Statistics stumble, science falters
and even chosen adjectives pause

before wisdom that sparkles
in the eyes of a ten year old—

calm, restrained, like the Tunga
before monsoon.

All Mattur asks for in return
is more than just a tourist’s agenda,

the willingness to step back
into several centuries, muse

at all that we might have missed
in our eagerness to conquer

a much smaller world.
Metaphysics is broken down here

in the mangroves, cattle that feast
in abandon, the young, ensconced

with the old, the old with young.
When I leave all the rote

slips beneath the coracle
and I emerge like a clean slate

in the city.


Shobhana Kumar

Shobhana Kumar

Shobhana Kumar’s two collections of poetry, The Voices Never Stop and *Conditions Apply were published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata. Her work has also appeared in journals including Kitaab, The Missing Slate, Muse India, Raedleaf Poetry, Open Road Review, Right Hand Pointing, Origami Poems Project and in  anthologies. She was one of the 25 featured poets from around the world at Poetry with Prakriti, 2014. She is poetry editor at Sonic Boom Journal. She also authored 5 books of non-fiction.