Two Poems by Pramila Venkateswaran

Is This Love That Stone-Clad Treaties Cannot Sunder?

Behind her madras headscarf
and his hat framing it above,
her fingers claw the wall
to rise higher to
lock her lips with his.

The couple
just inches apart, the concrete
rising between them.

An open sky above, birds


Berlin Wall, 1989

My husband, on returning from Germany,
handed me pieces of the Berlin Wall wrapped
in Deutsche Zeitung. Jagged cement, some powdery,
like fudge or pie crumble. People collect them
to remember the terror, the cementing of hearts.
In my palm, I saw the crumbling of sorrow,
soft pulsations of joy feeding empathy into
brick and mortar. For a long time, I kept the dregs
in my purse. They seeped through the paper,
smearing my makeup and ID like flour,
so each time I dusted my fingers, I knew why
walls rise wickedly from the earth.


Pramila Venkateswaran, poet laureate of Suffolk County, Long Island (2013-15) and co-director of Matwaala: South Asian Diaspora Poetry Festival, is the author of Thirtha (Yuganta Press, 2002) Behind Dark Waters (Plain View Press, 2008), Draw Me Inmost (Stockport Flats, 2009), Trace (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Thirteen Days to Let Go (Aldrich Press, 2015), Slow Ripening (Local Gems, 2016), The Singer of Alleppey (Shanti Arts, 2018), and more recently, We are Not a Museum (Finishing Line Press, 2022). She has performed the poetry internationally, including at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and the Festival Internacional De Poesia De Granada. An award winning poet, she teaches English and Women’s Studies at Nassau Community College, New York. Author of numerous essays on poetics as well as creative non-fiction, she is also the 2011 Walt Whitman Birthplace Association Long Island Poet of the Year. Her critical essays on Dalit poetry appear in recent issues of International Women’s Studies Journal, Journal of Contemporary Poetics, and Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics. She leads writing workshops for breast cancer patients in their healing journey. She is a founding member of Women Included, a transnational feminist association and the current President of NOW Suffolk, Long Island.

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