Part 14

Born in one town and raised in four others
before I was ten, I feel like the earth, unable
to say where I started. Was it night first, at

the beginning of the first rotation? The only
certainties are the ceaseless movement and
gravity. The inability to fly. Standing on the

beach in Chennai, I wondered if this was still
the womb, readying for the real birthing.
If my own vastness, bigger than that sea, was

still forming. One rain, one deluge, was not
enough. This ocean knows everything, her
sand is coarse inside my mouth when I talk,

inside my thoughts as they spawn. All I know,
I learnt from her brown-blueness, lapping
around my ankles like a warning. How to

talk without speaking, how to listen while
still retreating, how to let go even when the
full moon is drowning in your belly. I asked

her about flight, she rises to the sky and falls
in endless cycles. Is leaving home the same as
dying? Is she born over and over again? How

will I know if what I am now is sea or cloud
or rain? She whispered warmly to my skin for
a moment. How to be alive without being.


31 thoughts on “Part 14

  1. The sea keeps calling. I have this “weird” need to see the water (even if it’s not an ocean), to live next to water wherever I am in the world. There’s just something about a large body of water. An outstanding write, Rajani!


  2. So very dark, especially when the speaker is a child. Many adults say things like, “You are too young to understand.” I wonder how they could forget what it was to be young… and still having to feel.


  3. Lovely to look at the ocean as all of the changes of water and to look at us as planets with orbits. I love that.


  4. Pulling from the series and posting single installments sharpens the lens individually but blurs the general sweep. I’ve read enough of these that the lulling continuity of voice is like a nearby tide day and night. There’s an easy conversational rhetoric borne of the confidence of reiterating it many times to oneself (or her poems) in various forms of address. Body-wisdom is grounded and simple; even a life of movement finds that continuo. The sea is the wonderful mentor and metaphor, teaching us “How to / talk without speaking, how to listen while / still retreating, how to let go even when the / full moon is drowning in your belly.” Even “how to be alive without being,” which is the ultimate piano in us chording and resonating tides. Lovely lively series Rajani.


    1. Thanks so much, Brendan. Writing the series without a drawn out storyboard and posting one part at a time plus the readings – has actually been a different experience, slows everything down and lets me spend more time with the expression and content and myself to internalize. Am glad you’re reading these!


  5. Gorgeous, gorgeous writing. The questions are wrapped in a soft blur that allows their sharp outlines to be seen/felt with less pain than their edge might suggest. Where is the real beginning? Why do only our heaviest feelings fly, what is the sea, the moon, within us? Just excellent, luminous stuff.


  6. That end phrase, “How to be alive without being” is very haunting. It makes me think of being a ghost in one’s own life–always on the periphery, undetectable to most, and unable to be a full participant in the world around them.


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