Vol X Speakeasy

This volume’s poet is Tanya Mendonsa. 

Tanya Mendonsa is a poet and a painter who at twenty-one moved to Paris, to paint, major in French literature at the Sorbonne and run a chaotic language school. After nineteen years in Europe, she returned to live in India, with the abstract painter Antonio E Costa. They moved from Bangalore to Goa and now live in the Nilgiri hills in South India with their dogs.

She has exhibited her paintings widely, but writing is her focus. In her poems, she draws deeply from a poetic tradition of the wonders of the natural world, which illuminate her first book, ‘The Dreaming House ‘ , published by Harper Collins India in 2009. The following poems are excerpted from this collection.

She is currently at work on her second book of poems. Her poems have been anthologized in the US and in India.

Read more about Tanya Mendonsa in Anita Nair’s Goodnight & God Bless – a collection of essays.


Belly into baby
Cloud into rain
Flesh into grub
Flower into fruit
Story into legend
Day into night
Throat into song
Arrow into flight
Reed into flute
I into you
Body into dance
stumble into chance

The Pomegranate and Persephone

Of all trees I like the pomegranate best;
for the celebration of its being and the way it all hangs together.
Its slenderness leaps upward, as if rejoicing
in the airs of the world that blow through all its parts;

its new leaves are the colour of its flowers

and its flowers the colour of its fruit

and the rind of the fruit the colour of its flesh.

This feathered being raises its arms to dance the dance of the universe,
and the mouths of the flowers
open to birth the fruits of desire…

Inside the fruits of desire there are a million jewelled kernels,
each planted with a milky new seed of desire,
like a baby tooth in a translucent gum.

Persephone could not resist you, either:
she strayed where she should not have ventured;
she paid for the pleasure of one crimson crystal crunched in her sharp teeth
with four months underground in the arms of the dark god.

Appetite grows with feeding:
although she burns with impatience to escape back to her world
she burns, too, with new desire bred of new knowledge
and knows she will return to Pluto’s embrace
─his tongue in her mouth another kind of fruit─
because she is bound to the wheel now.

It is not the fault of the pomegranate tree:
men twist the natural world by their own devices
but in the end can never attain natural perfection
─nor satisfy natural desire without entrapment─

so that the pomegranate and Persephone
─although the luscious kernel is now her luscious flesh─
can never really know each other.

Pictures of Paris

My years in that city were like a dream.
There were good dreams and bad ones,

but I was never awake,

My eyes took photographs of the streets,
of the people,
of the gardens,
the river
and the glories of the monuments,

but I never really saw them.

The face that friends and lovers saw was not my own:
that one was only seen by strangers

when they caught me unaware,
when I was walking the roads of my real world in my head.

There was a clock in my breast that ticked off the moments;
that tocked me into motion when I had to keep going:
to work, to dinners, to lunches in the country, into men’s arms or to the theatre.
That clock stopped and stuttered into a heartbeat when I came home again,
where there was no more need for masks,

and where I saw my old world with new eyes.

One Last Sip of Sap

I have never seen the star jasmine
so bright
as in this early spring:

it buds fiercely against the tough boughs.

Even withered, it clings to them,
as if craving
one last sip of sap.

So certain old people are,
with their eyes still as bright as stars;
their gnarled fingers still milking

from the smallest of pleasures.



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