“The Mothers” by Sharanya Manivannan

Sharanya Manivannan


A mother wearing glass beads looking for
another handkerchief, the melted candy
in the one she is carrying as sticky as
the nose being wiped on her arm, under
church fans too slow for this April heat.

A mother whose only existing photograph of him
was borrowed permanently by someone who
told her they could be trusted with her story,
praying to the saint who restores what has
been lost, on her knees again
—again, as many times as it will take.

A mother whose own countenance howls
in frames the whole world scrolls past,
captured by someone who did not care to
learn her name or the names of her dead.

A mother who is Amma, her other name forgotten—
the word a scream in the room at the morgue where
bodies beloveds are identified by wedding rings
and blood-splashed shoes on a projection screen.

A mother who wishes they could have gone for a swim
first, but they are so hungry she has to stand between
them in the buffet line so they don’t break into a fight.

A mother with a baby keeping time
inside her body, a mother with a bomb.

A mother in the kitchen measuring the sugar
generously, preparing this Easter’s feast,
waiting for the little ones who must just now
be saying grace in a circle at Sunday school,

waiting for the little ones
to come home.

from Poets Respond
April 28, 2019


Sharanya Manivannan: “My family is among the Tamil diaspora who left Sri Lanka in the ’80s and ’90s. Just a fortnight ago, I was moving around freely in Colombo and Batticaloa, believing the years in which we could not were truly over. Ten years have passed since the civil war had officially ended. But the Easter Sunday bombings, which have killed 359 people at the time of this writing, have changed everything. The Zion Church in Batticaloa lost many children who were attending a Sunday school class; iconic churches and 5-star hotels full of families were also attacked in Colombo and Negombo. To me, one of the most striking and unfathomable details of these events is that, when authorities arrived at the home of one of the suicide bombers, his pregnant wife blew herself and her other children up. Sri Lanka also has an existing movement of the Mothers of the Disappeared, comprised of women demanding to know what happened to their children who were abducted over the years of the conflict. These three elements came together for me, as a way to begin parsing my own pain, in this poem.” (web)

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