Why does it have to be a poet?’


A piece dedicated to all the poets I have read, translated, loved


Space Gulliver’s sadness is monumental

Monumental her desire for friends

Who will draw her back into joy

Poets who will write songs for her

Poets she will write poems for

Poets who will offer her room in their small

One-room flats

Poets who will understand that flatness of emotion is not the thing

Poets who write in languages she cannot read

Poets who vanish so swiftly she must have dreamed them up

Poets who tower above her

Or stand easily beside her shoulder to shoulder at a bar

Poets she could smoke with in a fine drizzle

Poets she could smoke with under lamp posts sizzling with moths

Poets she could be loud with like sixteen years of carousing

And no knowledge it ends in death

Poets in slippers and shorts

Poets who once had stammers

Poets with preposterous and ironic eyebrows

Who will hold her as she stands in the sea

Poets who eat only raw food and watch the light fade

Poets so beautiful they lose everything

Poets with orange notebooks filled with sketches

Poets with cardamom on their tongues

Poets let loose in a country house

Poets reading

Sitting in large carved chairs wearing their glares

In the middle of the night

Poets who can walk into bedrooms unembarrassed by shed skins

And the detritus of thinking oneself unobserved

Poets who have chased monkeys

And saved red books with golden letters from destruction

Poets with footballer’s hands

Poets who buy her rings

Poets who buy her drinks

Poets who teach her words she may never need to use

Poets who have vertigo

Poets who once lived in brothels

Poets who have children from many women

Poets who build their own houses then leave them for sheds in the garden

Poets who hold her hand

Poets with very soft lips

Poets singing suddenly

Haunting her long after

Poets on the floor sitting cross-legged with the door ajar

And the windows blowing

Eating with their fingers which they have never done before

Poets rambling falling quiet wanting to cry

Poets catching buses and trains to see her

Poets leaving in small blue cars

Poets driving lime-green Citroëns with sun-roofs left open

So wind chills ears and everyone wears a cap

Poets careful not to trample on moss

Walking through Blair Witch forests

Linking arms but not too close

For fear of misunderstandings

Poets in jackets that make a swishing sound

Poets born in Ethiopia

Poets hugging poets

Poets writing in pink ink on the title pages of their books

Poets making promises

Riding motor-bikes

Poets being asked to leave it’s closing time

Poets in blue sweaters that cling

Poets in boa constrictors

Poets forgetting their lines

And what it was they were meant to do

Poets momentarily lost

Poets posing

Taking photos, always the same photos

Poets kissing her on the mouth

Why does it have to be a poet?

Space Gulliver thinks

Why not

Parachutist or pediatrician

Poltergeist or puppeteer

Pickle-maker or punk


Poets know

Know crows and alphabets

Know Fibonacci numbers and Gypsum Red D

Know anti-poem and counterpoint

Know tree and reed

Know there was nothing inside

Know Beelzebub in Bombay

Know canticles and Karna

Know wanting to be a roof is not a sign of insanity but of love

Know kindness is everything

Know the eerie longing

Know pelvises and shoulders

Know old houses where men hung themselves

Know beds in Peru

Know figurines the shape of Amsterdam

Know linguine and lascivious



Oysters, hieroglyphics and axes

Know girls from A to Z

Know one-camel clans and Babylon

Know lost earrings in grass

Know spectres in glass

Know the basket-weaver’s love

Know how

To remain alone at the end of a rhyme that will not deceive you

Know cliffs

Know the circus animals’ desertion

The rag and bone shop of the heart

Know long grey beard and glittering eye

Know salt and sea and synaesthesia

Know horizon

Where she came from

Knowing nothing but the daft unsolvable



from Space Gulliver: Chronicles of an alien (HarperCollins)

reprinted with permission of the author © Sampurna Chattarji