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Lullaby is the song which puts you to sleep, lose awareness, become unconscious. Its layered meaning is fully exploited by Leïla Slimani in “Lullaby,” also known by the titles “Chanson douce” and “The Perfect Nanny.” The novel begins at the end. And then it starts again, innocently enough, a child-like quality to its simple sentences told in the present tense. The steady rhythm of the sentences lull the reader to sleep, even as the novel, not so much picks up pace, but intensifies as it shifts from one point of view to the other, reconstructing lives, getting under the skin of characters.

Myriam and Paul are just another couple in Paris. Both are ambitious and both love their children, Mila and Adam. Myriam’s ambition leads her to return to work as a lawyer and the couple decide, not without apprehension, to hire a nanny for their children. Louise is the nanny of dreams, doll-like with immense strength, with her Peter Pan collar and varnished fingernails, descriptions which Slimani repeats. It is this too-good-to-be-trueness that heightens a sense of foreboding. Soon cracks – at times, vicious and at times, pitiful – begin to appear. But when things are convenient, red flags are ignored and justified, which is precisely what Myriam does.

Slimani unearths many underlying tensions in the situation: complexities of motherhood, conflicts of a working mother, loneliness, how nannies are treated, confused intimacies, and the final spiral into darkness. In the end, everyone stands guilty.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

(also here!)

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crouching
moving
child shadow
within
long shadow
within
old shadow.

flailing
hands
feeling
skyblue windows
milkysap tree
icecold ghosts.

tracing
fingers
indigo
glass pregnant:
living snow
buzzing bees.

inhaling
caverns
mustylined
tube twist
crayon pillar
making lips.

flowing
life
whitelaced
satinsashed
sea streaming
face buried
cotton shoulders
birthday baby.

whistling breath
beheading
flames whoosh
three candles stand
dead.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

(Written in response to one of the prompts at the poetry workshop by Sourav Roy at Atta Galatta)

 

 

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summer condenses
where my knee
creases,
rolls past
calf to tendon
a tear, wet-tailed
agony.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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Image: Hampi © Anuradha Prasad 2019

Thoughts like sun, blazing
ochre spreading across
a sky, setting fire to all
in its path, strips of clouds
alight in fleeting flames –
mauve, fuchsia, tangerine
dissolving into darkness,
a brass-plated oblivion
against which he pounds
full fisted and forgetting
this too shall pass.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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The heart opens to the
yin and yang breath
of a love song:
the float of a wayward
leaf caught in the grain
of the breeze.

I stand witness to its play.
Reason is stumped. I drop
all restraint, clink-clank,
they fall at my feet.

I pray for mercy.
I join the play.
I love again.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

Love is your breath being.
Feel its pull and push.
A lotus blossoming
of the heart, rose rays.

Inhale love.
Exhale love.

Let love come alive, murmurs
of your body in full stretch.
Skin taut and silken.
Bones light.

Inhale love.
Exhale love.

Anoint yourself.
Oil and sandalwood paste.
Let the water flow and trace
your shape, an adoration.

Inhale love.
Exhale love.

A wristlet of rose.
A garland of mogra.
A halo of jasmine.
Kanakambra woven in hair.

Inhale love.
Exhale love.

Chant love’s numerous names
Inanna, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Durga,
Isis, Diana, Maria, Rosa, Eva, you.
Let the sound of devotion resonate.

Inhale love.
Exhale love.

Sacred is the drink and food
Live every bite, every sip
to its roots, to its birthing,
to its earth soul.

Inhale love.
Exhale love.

Dance and sway.
Make crystal constellations.
Sing loud, shake maracas,
beat shamanic drums.

Inhale love.
Exhale love.

Sun kiss.
Moon bathe.
Breeze whirl.
Fire blaze.

Inhale love.
Exhale love.

Creation creates.
Write your chiaroscuro life.
Paint you in swirling chakras.
Choreograph leaps of faith.

Inhale love.
Exhale love.

Wake up to love’s call.
A prayer of the self,
to the self. Burn light,
incense, luminosity worship.

Inhale love.
Exhale love.

Goddess, love is you.
Step in, and you’ll step out.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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arching her back
her face upturned
to the kiss
of the sun
the many-fingered
palm smiled
a leafy smile,
her green deepening
as warmth sped
down her spine.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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I
Jump
Free Fall
Approaching Ground
I
Land
Feet First

© Anuradha Prasad

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Think.
The curtain falls
searchlights on
for plumes of thoughts
that make a smog of mind
smoke and mirrors,
i lurch through you.

Drunk.
Words, true until
strung into thoughts
making meanings,
waltzing with my history
reacting as acid
does with a solution
(i need more science.)

Consequences.
True only to me
i worry it: the thought,
the meaning
the way i worry an ulcer,
a loose tooth, skin ripped
from nail crescents.

Pain.
It burns
it is metallic
it makes me alive
there is terror in it,
a cloud that screams
a storm, a zigzag of
light and boom and bam.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

 

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lovers sunken,
from a faceless
haze, resurface.

one’s eyes, drowsy
hazel
another’s lips, scar
crescent
there’s a stubble, salty
strays
lanky loose limbs, firm
chest

fragmented
never whole
unholy affairs.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019