Flood

The water mark below my lips at the place
cleft disappears like a rumour.

I watched the water level rise above my heart
where a spring lies buried.

Then to my neck as the serpent stirred, scales
beehive of deep and long sighs.

I smelled earth, roots of the neem tree in clumps
of clay that snagged my voice.

Like a beaker the vocal chord filled, brimmed over
when a turtle choked the larynx.

As the noise subsided I heard the announcement
from the sky. The wind fell.

In the darkness among abandoned homes plumeria
rendered odourless.

Pale with terror pigeons under windowsills breathed
lung full with bones of the drowned.


In response to “Flooded” by Jean Morris. Chennai experienced unprecedented rain and flooding in December 2015, claiming many lives and rendering people homeless. The apartment block where I live was flooded. I had to move out and stay away from home for 17 days. I wrote poems during this period to cope with the suffering I saw around, to grapple with the distress of displacement, of being homeless.

4 Comments


  1. This is wonderful, Uma – “I watched the water level rise above my heart” will stay with me. I’m so sorry for the personal sadness and suffering that inspired it, and worried and frightened – as we all are – by the extreme climate events all over the world, but probably not frightened or worried enough, since we haven’t had floods where I live in London. I read about the floods in Chennai from day to day from a journalist friend on Facebook who was staying with her family there at the time. That kind of personal reporting is important, I think, and makes our world smaller in a good way. And so is poetry, which is sharing on a whole other, just as necessary, level.

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  2. Thank you, Jean. Yes, writing connects us in ways unimaginable, it makes us transcend personal suffering and loss.

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