Notes on a beast


by Subashini Navaratnam

First the vines twist, snake up in an elegant manner,
and all of a sudden my skin transforms into a landscape of poison

The eternal struggle between touch and thought. The aesthetics of my desire don’t act as an anesthetic; despite potions and spells I am prey to the beast with no name anyway. It creeps up, stealthy, and I am washed up in diarrhoea, my words leaking out of every orifice, mingling with tears, talking about feelings and trauma, trauma and feelings, singing over and over the same refrain: you’ve got me feeling emotions. My mother, the supreme monster of my life, sees the transformation in me and mutters the holy words, slices limes over my forehead, sprinkles water mixed with saffron all over the house. The beast will not be abated, it feeds on the sour and the sweet and the bitter of my excitement and jouissance, swims in the shit of my daily explosions. The flood is its temple. Its head emerges from the muck, triumphant.

The vines are keeping my head secured to my body,
my skin lights up every day in its own graceful forest fire

Built out of my secretions, the house doesn’t last long. Someone came by, huffing and puffing, and down it all went, into the gutter, my letters, your orgasms, my tears, our whispered rubbing friction in your car parked in a corner street at night, in the cinemas, in the hallways of elegant buildings as security personnel walked by and witnessed the electricity. The eruptions must not continue! Someone issued the warning; by the next day, the posters were up, the warnings were forwarded to my inbox, and it was all over. I roll myself over and over, like a dog, hoping to become a ball of discipline and moderation. To contain my self within myself, plug up all the holes. But the moist keeps seeping, the wet keeps wetting. The all-loving supreme beast, mother of my life, wraps me up in cloth and tape and tenderly rolls me over until I am sealed shut like a crypt.

The vines enjoy being snakes, slithering around with
authority, keeping things where it should be: my mind within my head

Now I’ve started thinking with my head and not with my other part. I’ve been rolled over and rolled over and now I sit when I’m told and stay when I’m ignored. The green age of a new becoming: I see myself, stifled and perfect, a smooth bulb of a closed flower. I grow past other people’s muck, their daily dirt, and I smile benevolently because I hover above what gives the heart a beat, a pulse, a throb. Daily my nerves thrum with the beginnings of an explosion; underskin fireworks for my own consciousness only. Not for your eyes and not for mine, either. My benevolent monster of a mother is proud; she has made me, undone me, watch me undo myself, and put me back together again. She gives me a pair of binoculars: how to spot a wolf from afar and how not to flower in front of it, your green stem shooting straight up, unfurling sweet pink petals like a treat for a fool.

‘Notes on a beast’ has been shortlisted for the 2016 Berfrois Poetry Prize.

About the Author:

Subashini Navaratnam lives in Selangor, Malaysia and has published poetry and prose in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Mascara Literary Review, Sein und Werden, minor literature[s], Queen Mob’s Teahouse, DATABLEED, Deluge, PLINTH, The Ghastling, Dead King, LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction and others. Her writings on books have appeared in The Star (Malaysia), Pop Matters, 3:AM Magazine and Full Stop. She has published nonfiction in MPH’s anthology, Sini Sana as well as fiction in KL Noir: Yellow.