Ode to plants – poem by Anjali Bhavan

jasmine poem

Here’s an ode to the mallippu, to blade-like

whips of white, inviting snakes to dream

beneath their bowers. Here’s another song

to the slender bones of arugampul, beloved

to the elephant-lord and the digestive system.

A cheer for feisty old kanakambharam, the

one which bursts when it swallows its share

of grief; it refuses to linger unlike our wispy

tendrils of pain, our depressive creepers stuck

to deadlines. Thamarai, floating around in a

bad economy, impish womanhood throwing

itself forth amidst a puddle of algae. A shout

-out to Thulasi, the favorite condiment in my

mother’s chai and the scent of orthodox piety.

Here’s to my mother, ambling along like a

slow harvest, teeth set, hands sweating. Here

is a poem to her microcosmic embrace, her

earthy voice, her walk her laughter her tears.

To my grandmother; round and tart like a

betel leaf, falling softly on our tongues like

a benediction. To my neighbourhood aunt,

rearing and raking an entire universe in a

two-bedroom abode;

to the one who hides tears in her belly and

growls ferociously at the onslaught of snags

her tiny life throws at her. Here is an ode to

the numerous flowers, bumbling stalks and

whispering leaves I run into; on every street,

in every other newspaper article, inside every

box of spices.

To you and to you, I light a lamp and pray.

Tamil glossary

  • Mallippu: Jasmine flowers
  • Aragampul: Bermuda grass
  • Kanakambharam: Fire-cracker flowers
  • Thamarai: Lotus
  • Thulasi: Basil
  • Chai (Hindi): Tea

It is a common belief that the scent of jasmine flowers attracts snakes, hence the first line of the poem.