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Book Excerpt: From Trivarna Hariharan’s ‘The Necessity of Geography’

By Trivarna Hariharan

These three poems are excerpted from Trivarna Hariharan’s collection of poetry, The Necessity of Geography. Reviewer Archita Mittra describes Hariharan’s poems as “the kind of poetry you read on a lonely night,” and that is as apt a description as any. These prose poems are sometimes searing and sometimes comforting, always positioning the familiar with the unknowable in the way good poetry ought to.

“There are ruminations on the dualistic notions of place,” says Mittra, for whom “the poems navigate the murky hinterlands of our interior selves, as well as explore exterior landscapes.” Mittra sees in these poems “the dreams of an immigrant, the recollections of a mythic landscape and the rubble of a broken town. These are poems about identity, both geographical and otherwise, as well as time and distance and the way our mind creates meaning out of abstraction.”

Read Trivarna Hariharan’s poems here:

Vocations

You didn’t understand maps, and they advised you to take up cartography.
You sketched two countries with a green sea in between and turned towards me
to say:
“this is the way maps work –
you plot one place and keep it as a reference for another. The process continues until you get the whole world with its glorious boundaries and excruciating indifference. And I don’t understand apathy. I only understand love that comes without fences, nuts and mortar.”

*

You didn’t understand artefacts and they told you to take up archaeology.
You couldn’t shovel the souvenirs from the oceans as directed, so you hoarded the moss on the shore instead. You waited for it to grow cold in your hand before you could place it inside blankets with layers that provided refuge to all those in need, impartially.
You turned to me and said with resignation:
“this is how you lose things. By choosing to be a selective amnesiac. By loving only what you’re told to. By filtering the stratigraphy of life and misplacing the important keepsakes in the process.”

*
You didn’t understand gardens and they instructed you to take up gardening.
They mocked you for growing weeds where you should have grown bougainvillea, and laughed at you for loving sphagnums and roses alike. You turned to me and said with a smile:
“this is how we let ourselves be discriminated against love. By classifying it into categories that only exist in our heads. By allowing ourselves to be deluded into thinking that we can’t, and therefore mustn’t love everyone and everything that comes our way.”

*

You didn’t understand time, and they compelled you to become a timekeeper. You counted the hours in your tears and the days in your waiting. Let time be, and didn’t strive to manipulate it as you wished. You turned to me and said with concern:
“this is how clocks work. By asking questions that don’t matter and trapping people in answers that they were never looking for. By wandering on their own, but letting everyone else be lost in the paraphernalia of their voyage.”

*

You didn’t understand conditioning and they suggested you loved restrictedly. You went ahead and loved with all you could for that’s all you knew. They said you weren’t performing satisfactorily. But this time, I turned to you and said:
“this is how the world works –
in contours, paradigms, fences. It cripples itself, wounds itself. But you’re different. Even your suffering yields affection. Your smile brings rain and your voice assuages thunder. You’re like the butterfly in the chaos theory. You flap your wings, and the rest of the world flies. That’s how special you are. That’s how giving you are. And that’s how beautiful everything that stems from you is.”

*** 

Identity 

You were a city. Edges outlined with palm trees and stray thin clouds. Roads winding in and out of narrow geography, like cartography gone wrong. Lanes thick with houses made of mud and mortar. Hands like wings of birds tasting freedom for the first time. Skies painted as hymns across the horizon. Water tearing at the seam, tendrils rising on your skin.
You loved like a mirage in the desert of slow thunders. The rains never came. The lightening never renounced its arms. Wars were fought like wars.
When I tried to stitch crevices into your barricades, you said you didn’t like light. Your skin cracked under the heat of the green sun, shafts of light struck your body like glass shards. You made love the way you created art, and the wind that hummed the tunes of your pining shook every windowpane, wall, firmament.
That’s when I knew you were a house with shut doors. I knocked for a long time – three years, five days, ten hours.
One day, I saw you inside a maze of pulled-over blinds, your eyes breathing the sound of enough. Your face was the dust settling on forgotten bedrocks, a bruised sky holding a fistful of broken stars.

***

Homeland

The wind here is a story transcribed on the cave-like barks of the Banyan.

Rootless weeds scatter themselves around like nomads unfettered by the necessity for geography. The ocean sits under an ancient tree, singing verses from the books of a flickering, unforgotten language.

An embroidery of a golden sun and azure feathers weaves itself into a patchwork of latent vernaculars, syllables of which sound like dawn falling on the eyes of fluorescent hills.

Sand sifts the oasis from the desert when twilight rests itself on wooden planks and ivory bedspreads.

Silence undoes itself like hushed waters learning to speak. It enunciates your name like a prayer humming under the vast breaths of a moon, gravitating towards grounds coloured in feldspar, a milder version of revolution, rebirth.

Skies are unafraid of meandering in the valleys of maxims, the consequentiality of answers drowns in a sea of stone-like gusts. Stars recite hymns from a crossthread of unencumbered questions.

This is the place you’ve been looking for since you conditioned yourself to live away from a spatula of neatly arranged boundaries.
You don’t need to run anymore.

Bio:
Trivarna Hariharan is the author of The Necessity of Geography (Flutter Press), Home and Other Places (Nivasini Publishers), Letters I Never Sent (Writers Workshop, Kolkata). Her poems appear or are forthcoming from Alexandria Quarterly, Allegro, Birds Piled Loosely, Random Sample Review, Open Road Review, Vayavya, Café Dissensus, The Sunflower Collective, Quail Bell, Eunoia Review, and others. She has served as the editor in chief at Inklette. She’s the poetry editor for Corner Club Press and Goodwill Ambassador for Postcards for Peace.

Do look up the official release page of The Necessity of Geography here.

The Necessity of Geography is available here.

***

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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.

***

Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘The Idea of the University’, edited by Dr. Debaditya Bhattacharya, University of Calcutta, India.

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