Poems & Short Stories

Long before I started writing for children 
I was writing poetry. And although I'm not sure how they measure up to the lofty standards of the world of poets and poems, I find great solace in expressing myself through verse. So, if you like poetry, do keep checking for poetic tit-bits every now and then.

I also write short stories and once in a while, one of them gets published in a print/online magazine and gets read by a larger audience. Scroll down to find the links and if you do read them, I'll love it if you wrote back with your thoughts.

I also have grand plans to write a couple of novels before Armaggedon. For starters, I have co-authored a collaborative novel with -hold your horses- 9 other writers. It's called Altitudinis: seekers, sinners & secrets. You can find more about this interesting project at, www.altitudinis.com.

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haiku poetry

Winner of the Triveni Haikai Calendar Contest
soon to be published as a calendar for 2021

Two Poems: Stray & The House they Sold
published in The Bombay Literary Magazine, Issue D6, June 2020
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poems copyright © Priya Narayanan 2020, All rights reserved

Winner of the EFSLE Haiku Contest 2020

Results of the Ecosophical Foundation for the Study of Literature and Environment (EFSLE) Haiku Contest 2020 are out! 
Huge CONGRATULATIONS to Priya Narayanan . 
The 1st prize (Rs15,000) goes to: 

powdered pangolin scales 
the smell 
of a dead warrior 
- Priya Narayanan . 

 Comments from the judge, Kala Ramesh

Kala : To be honest I had to Google pangolin scales, but once I was armed with all this knowledge, each line and each word seemed to talk volumes. 
Let’s take the first line: 
powdered pangolin scales 

Pangolin scales, like rhino horn, have no proven medicinal value, yet they are used in traditional Chinese medicine to help with ailments ranging from lactation difficulties to arthritis to cancer. The scales are dried and powdered and then made into pills. Though pangolins are protected by an international ban on their trade, they suffer from illegal poaching and trafficking. The figures are staggering.  

Now we come to the winning Ls 2 & 3: 
the smell  
of a dead warrior 

Though many think of pangolins as reptiles, they are actually mammals. They are the only mammals wholly covered in scales, which they use to protect themselves from predators in the wild. If under threat, a pangolin immediately curls into a tight ball and uses its sharp-scaled tails to defend itself. While well-equipped to defend against natural predators, they are easily caught by poachers, who simply pick up the animals when they roll into a ball. 
I was reminded of this beautiful poem by D. H. Lawrence.  

Mountain Lion  
So, she will never leap up that way again,  
with the yellow flash of a mountain lion’s long shoot!  
And her bright striped frost-face will never watch any more, out of the shadow of the cave in the blood-orange rock, Above the trees of the Lobo dark valley-mouth!  
And I think in this empty world there was room for me and a mountain lion.  
And I think in the world beyond, how easily we might spare a million or two humans  
And never miss them.  
Yet what a gap in the world, the missing white frost-face of that slim yellow mountain lion!  

And so the 1st prize goes to this powerful and most poignant haiku. Each word is measured and nothing is misplaced or redundant. My deepest regards to the haijin who gave voice to the urgent need to protect this endangered species.
Indian Quarterly Magazine
untitle poem by priya narayanan


published in The Indian Quarterly -Vol 8, Issue 2, Jan-Mar 2020

Must an artist explain  
that the flower  
growing out of the tailbone  
of her subject is an ode  
to her origin, or that  
it took her three  
months to mix up a pink  
that would alternately spell  
‘bleak’ and ‘hope’, or that  
in the negative space  
between the petals  
she once excavated  
a city of reasons  
that justified every act, 
right or wrong, so that 
when a butterfly surfaced  
onto her canvas  
to befriend the flower,  
she was remorseless 
when she thwacked it  
and entombed it  
in a jar of arguments?  
Must she explain 
that the kineticism  
in the objects she paints 
– some about to lift off 
some about to fall – 
is because she believes  
no life is still, or that 
she drew the egg inside 
the cage because  
that’s where the bird 
would end up  
anyway, or that 
when the jug tips over 
the water wouldn’t wet  
the canvas because  
one or both of them 
is an illusion, or that 
despite what you and I  
might say, she believes  
the laws of physics  
are no match  
to for the laws  
of imagination? 

Must she  
move her fingers  
over her baby  
and say “this 
is why I made her”? 

freedom stories
poems by priya narayanan


published in The Indian Quarterly -Vol 8, Issue 2, Jan-Mar 2020

You have aged gracefully  
over the years. I remember the days  
when I reached only up to your waist.  
Back then, you had a big red dot  
on your forehead: big enough  
for my tiny palms to reach inside  
and pull out your thoughts.  
And you wore diamond studs  
on your ears: 10gms each, they weighed,  
and the five shiny stones embedded in them  
shone like fireflies. The fragrance  
of the malli and kanakambaram 
on your slick black hair  
was the smell of love – a love 
I did not understand then.  
When I picked up the stray malli  
that fell to the floor behind you,  
it did not smell at all. It was as though  
the magic was in your hair, not the flower.  
Did you drop a strand of your hair  
in the sambar too? I remember smelling heaven 
as the red glass bangles decorating your strong wrists  
clinked as you stirred the pot. 
When you arranged the thambalam  
with kumkum and chandan and rice  
and a deepam that was the upturned cap  
of a milk bottle and lead me to the temple,  
your hands did not shiver. And they did not shiver  
when you made those beautiful kolams  
at the temple door and taught me  
to make them too – never use your left hand,  
always the right! you’d reprimand.  
Standing at the edge of that kolam  
I’d imagine it to be my time machine:  
I would sit at the centre  
and it would spin and swirl  
and wrap me in a mist of rice powder;  
transporting me  
to a world of altered realities. 
sitting by your side today, I wish  
I had that time machine.  
I would turn time backwards  
and unfold the folds on your skin, 
unbend the bend on your back  
and unburden the burden on your ears  
that are weighed down  
by the absence of those earrings.  
And if blood could be an able substitute  
I would slit my finger and colour  
the pale patch on your forehead  
from where I once dreamt of stealing your thoughts. 


published in the Narrow Road Literary Journal -Vol 8, Aug 2019

it's mangrove, not mango grove 
the teacher flexed her tone. they're different.  
we boys giggled at the back bench… 
we were at that age when we knew  
what other meanings of mangoes existed. 
when mother crushed mango leaves to feed to the cows 
the fragrance wafted in through the slats in closed windows 
mother said the windows would have to stay closed 
however sweaty and sticky I might feel 
‘coz ghosts lived under our mango tree 
and they prowled in the night's yellow darkness  
looking for young boys like me 
whose body shivered and transmitted strange currents 
whenever the mango tree flowered. 

Poem copyright © Priya Narayanan 2016, All rights reserved

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story copyright © Priya Narayanan 2016, All rights reserved

partition stories
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story copyright © Priya Narayanan 2016, All rights reserved

cloud poem

Love is in the Clouds

published in the Narrow Road Literary Journal, Volume 2

I look to the skies for clues 

of your love: cumulus desires 

mutilate into the cumulonimbus. Smiles 

squander into a deluge of wounded fury. Love 

evaporates, forms a ghostly cirrus wisp 

and dies.

Poem copyright © Priya Narayanan 2017, All rights reserved 

poetry anthology
The Divine Dilemma
Winner of the 'Outstanding Contribution' Award by the British Council 

I was but a piece of stone 
lying motionless by the river, 
when one day a tender hand picked me up 
and changed my life forever. 
I was ecstatic, I remember 
my body shivered with hope, 
like an abandoned orphan 
who’d found a new home. 
Soon I drowned in my newfound bliss 
and marvelled at their avid ways, 
as a fine hand carved me a handsome face, 
a pious hand smeared me with sandalwood paste, 
a prosperous hand built me a becoming abode, 
and the world came on its knees to name me…God. 
Yes, they still come: 
they come in full strength, 
flowers in hand 
prayers on lips 
hope in their hearts 
faith in their minds . . . 
They light lamps for me 
to drive out the darkness from their lives; 
Offer fruits, milk and honey 
to free themselves of starvation; 
They fill my arms with annas* and diamond rings 
to ensure a prosperous life ahead; 
And sing praises through endless nights 
to strengthen their faith in me… 
And when at long last they shut the door, 
leaving me trapped in the darkness 
with but a golden glow, 
I sit and wonder: 
What a quirk of fate it was that made me 
an object of their misplaced faith… 
And as memories of a hundred years 
cloud my mind, I ask myself - 
No doubt they’ve made me their God, 
but . . . do I want to be God? 
*anna - was a currency unit formerly used in India
Poem copyright © Priya Narayanan 2012, All rights reserved 

Click on the Anthology cover to download the entire book in pdf. You can find my poem on page 27
poetry award
indian poetry

The Undertaker's Wife

Longlisted for the 2013 RLP Award, Featured in the anthology: An Unsettled Winter

I look at her, as she lay on our antique wooden cot, fast asleep.  
The soft cotton blanket lay crumpled beside her, a reminder  
that she’d never really cared for it - preferring instead 
to sleep with the breeze caressing her lithe body.  
I look at her with ardor as I’ve done several times before,  
but it’s different this time. . .  
Her almond eyes, her ears hiding behind graying curls, 
her thin lips and not-so-thin eyebrows, her broad forehead,  
her pointed chin and nose, her neck and sinewy shoulders. . . 
A grim nor’wester snaps me back to the job at hand. Slowly, I slide
beside her, undoing her clothes as I’ve done several times before, 
but it’s different this time. . . 
I pick up a sodden sponge and run it over her pale, 
taut frame, taking care not to chafe, lest she’d complain.  
I pick up her citrus-laced lotion and daub it softly,  
releasing the most pleasant yet poignant fragrance.  
I stagger to the cabinet and pick up her favorite dress:  
a lilac knee-length outfit with dull-gold sequins around the waist;  
My eyes well up as I slip it down her slender form. 
I avoid the jewelry – she’d never fancied them – ‘cept for the  
wedding band and the glass-bead earrings from our last vacation. 
I place her favorite black shoes on her feet. My lips shiver  
as they kiss hers, as they’ve done several times before, 
but it’s different this time. . . 
As I turn around, the aides take over, placing her gently  
in a satin-lined casket. As we move along in the hearse,  
I play back her favorite songs in my mind; I imagine her  
dancing with abandon, just the way she did when we first met. 
The grave is dug, the vault sunk in, the prayers said. I place  
a bunch of her much loved lavenders by her and say a silent goodbye. 
Promising to return every day, I turn around and walk away 
never to direct a funeral again. 

Poem copyright © Priya Narayanan 2013, All rights reserved
* Click on the Anthology cover to download the entire anthology in pdf. You can find my poem on page 36.