Sowmya Rajendran


Pink Panther

are there pink panthers in the woods, papa?

I think I saw one crouching last night, amongst the bushes
in the dark forest I grow in my head.

Her eyes were angry fireflies dancing their last seconds.

Perhaps I saw a snake too. Coiled inside all that seething pink.
Black and murderous.
Dripping indigo poison in cold blood.

did you see pink panthers in the woods, papa?

You are the jungle king and you laugh at my pink panther tales.
The dreams I have, I bleed to you,
And yet
you will not believe them to be true.

The hunters missed my pink panther too.
They thought she was made of dead rubber and shot their arrow
at a honeycomb on a tree, instead.
They never saw the way her eyes roared in delight
as the first few drops of brown warmth
hit her tongue.

I swear in your name, papa.
Pink panthers stalk the night because
I dare dream
of such tales
as you would banish from your


For Gregor Samsa

They killed you, Gregor Samsa.
Just because you turned into a cockroach overnight.
As if that were your fault.
They didn’t listen, did they?

They crushed your chocolate wings and
then made a face at your poor little juice,
hardly a streak on the unmourning floor.

A sad little tear falls from my eye.
In memory of the burnished rust of your back.
The cheer of your cockroachy ways.
And nobody will touch you now.
I weep.

Did I ever tell you that I loved you?
As you crawled on my wall with indolence,
I whispered to you
my vapour dreams.
Long after you had left, I traced my finger on the
tipsy path of your wanderlust.

And now they killed you, didn’t they?


The Autopsy

Santa died yesterday
Did you go for his funeral too?
They laid him out in plum wood
fragrant with forgotten moss
fallen asleep.
There was a bead of dew on
his snow white beard and a tiny
yellow feather
on his crimson eyelid.

But his face was blue.

They said he died because the
tundric wind swallowed him
in ice. But I don’t believe that.
Santa would never have died
of a mere cold.
And certainly not, without telling
me first.

I think somebody pushed him
down a chimney, down down and down
and he died of no air and
a broken heart.

I slit Santa’s vein thick and blue
and saw an animal farm.
jumbled humps jigsawed
heads algebraic tails
hexagonal hearts
anonymous parts.
Then I saw me.
bruised and bleeding

And I was fading into
the wallpaper of Santa’s vein



Sowmya Rajendran is 19 years old and in her final year studying English Literature at Stella Maris College, Chennai, India. She describes poetry as her “personal mosh pit, an arena in which I slam myself against the world and all that it has to say.” Of ‘Pink Panther’ she writes: “Something close to fury leapt in my head when I read Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’ and that became ‘Pink Panther’. My pink panther stands for the defiance of the stereotype of the female and I wrote it to avenge Judith Shakespeare’s death.” Of Gregor Samsa: “There used to be a cockroach in my room called Gregor Samsa (named after Kafka’s unlucky salesman!) and I found him squashed to death one fine day. ‘For Gregor Samsa’ was written that evening!” Of The Autopsy: “I’ve always loved the idea of Santa Claus and sometimes I wonder if he is really the merry old man that everyone thinks he is. ‘The Autopsy’ is an attempt to identify myself with Santa Claus, an attempt to find out what lies inside the human sack of happiness and cheer.”