CP Surendran is one of India’s finest poets- a strange stillness follows his works, a numb silence too. Here he shares with us a stellar piece. Accompanying it, the poet’s musings. 


Dawn breaks my fall.  Down a narrow road 
I shuffle, each foot out of step with the other.
A  stone loosened from its hold, or a thought,
Could trip my knees held in place by braces.

I return and lie across the arms of the old sofa
-Mary and her son, a version of the Pieta-
And open, as the sun sweats summer brown, 
Graham Greene, whose god is always down.

At noon, I go on old journeys on trains
Past towns I am banished from.  There is no return.
Once there was a couple on the upper berth
Making love, the woman pulling the chain

As she arrived, halting the night. At dusk, 
I boil noodles in a pan, an ear to the shadow
Stealing up the stairs, pausing at the door, puzzled,
As if a thing that should have ceased long ago

Still stirred, like wind dragging round the bend
Dry leaves muttering to each other of the end.



I believe that there would be an exilic period in a writer’s life. From Ovid down.

He would be banned. Traduced. Shipped. Jailed. Silenced. Excluded. Cancelled. It could be the government of the day. The mob. The good people. The festivals. The funerals. The mores. The chores. But especially the good people. He would be an old man. 

Perhaps the exile is self-imposed.  That time when there is nothing. No one. Just himself growing old. Watching memory, like movies. Wishing they could have had other beginnings and ends. Wondering why humans are so busy. 

Watching the one ant cross the floor with such religion.

An old man who looks at the dawn from his bed as if a strange thing has happened, the slow whitening of the mirror with light. The noon heat radiating, like sciatica,  up from under the worn-out soles of his sandals.  The disconsolate violet of the twilight; that it must give in to the night. ‘Surprise’ is about that old man. His slow alienation from himself.  Waiting for the end. The end of the exile.

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CP Surendran

C.P. Surendran is a poet, novelist, screenplay writer, and columnist. His latest volume of verse is Available Light (Collected Poems), preceded by Portraits of the Space We Occupy, Canaries on the Moon, Posthumous Poems, and Gemini II. One Love and the Many Lives of Osip B. is his fourth novel. The earlier ones are Hadal, Lost and Found, and An Iron Harvest. His columns have appeared in leading newspapers in India and abroad. He lives in Delhi.