P. Ahilan :: Mithunam

From the Tamil--

 Packiyanathan Ahilan (b. 1970) is a senior lecturer in Art History at the University of Jaffna. His publications include two poetry collections, Pathunkukuzhi Naatkal (2001) and Saramakavigal (2011) and the essay collection Kalathin Vilimpu:Yalapanathin Marapurimaiyum avatrai pathukaathalum (2015). He also co-edited Reading Sri Lankan Society and CultureVols. II and III (2007-08) and Venkat Swaminathan: Vathangalum Vivathangalum (2010).

Rotting Words: The interior landscape of P. Ahilan

 P. Ahilan is an important voice among contemporary Tamil poets from Sri Lanka. His poems, written in response to the mass killing in Northern Sri Lanka in 2009[i], which marked the end of decades-old armed conflict, speak at the intersection of the public and the personal memories of trauma and violence. They are shaped by the complexity of human experience of violence, desolation, love, and loss.

His poems gathered under ‘mithunam’ are important registers of the interior space. The term mithunam, which derives from mithuna in Sanskrit, refers to sexual union on both physical and spiritual level, drawing multiple interpretations from Hindu religion and philosophy. This group of poems explore an intimate relationship within the language of violence, a language of the exterior in the surreal landscape of war. The morbid internal landscape of these poems is unusual in Tamil poetics; readers are forced to leave this poetic oeuvre struggling to maintain any sense of reassurance.


[i] In the last five months of the civil war, which lasted between August 2008 and May 2009, 70,000 people were killed and over 300,000 people were internally displaced. http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/The_Internal_Review_Panel_report_on_Sri_Lanka.pdf






 The venomous gaps

of teeth open.


I am now

the awful madness

of a decimated animal.


This hatred is

inseparable from                                       

the shaft of bodies.


Your lips ooze

bloodied pus,

my hand rips

the hair from

the scalp.


Villains, clowns

and heroes

enter each other.


I am now

an actor,

the best

of the best.


Under the bed

on which

worm ridden

overripe lust rots,

the clock hands creep,

coiling like  





The insect


chews away

tissues of memory.



rotting words

cram and stumble.


I fill the bowls

with lies;

poisonous grass

in the smile.


Unknown to yourself,

the knife that

is drawn out,

riving your nerves

is not someone else’s.



is a lie;


a fool’s summer dream.



I unravel myself

in the rain.




Our daggers devoured blood.


The fetid smell of meat

sealed the room;

the sound of cruel sex

cracked open the wall,

exiting into the street.


The rotting tongue delights

in piercing the heart

with words

mixed in saliva.


Over the mountain

a flock of sparrows

and childish prattles

bid farewell.


I do not want anymore,

another day,

another night.





We savor blood.


On the bed

of fiery words

we sleep,

two corpses

on either side,

after frigid sex.


Under the sheet

of thorns,

strangers bound

by fate,

wear a dream

with worms squirming,


a parched future

with two pairs

of tearing eyes.


--Translated from the Tamil by Geetha Sukumaran



 In the final five months of the civil war, which lasted between August 2008 and May 2009, 70,000 people were killed and over 300,000 people were internally displaced.     <http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/The_Internal_Review_Panel_re...

Geetha Sukumaran, a poet and translator, is the recipient of the N. Sivalingam award from the York Center for Asian Research for her research proposal on Tamil poetry from Sri Lanka and trauma theory. Her Tamil translation of Sylvia Plath’s poems, Tharkolaikku parakkum panithuli was published in 2013, and her poetry collection Otrai Pakadaiyil Enchum Nampikkai was published in 2014.