Heart’s Beast: New and Selected Poems


Heart’s Beast: New and Selected Poems


Saleem Peeradina


“Peeradina is a master of the conversational tone. I hear every poem of his as words addressed to a specific listener, sometimes named, sometimes not. This makes for intimacy, nuanced ranges of thought and emotion which only the poet’s familiars can be expected to share but which, reassuringly in his case, also allow us, his readers, into the listening circle he trusts. It’s a candid, open-hearted privilege Peeradina grants, freely expressing his moods—satirical, sad, disgusted, sublime—while he carefully chronicles what he sees, hears, smells, touches or imagines: the decaying walls of neighbourhoods he knows, ‘sails billowing like lampshades’ in a Chinese painting, the wondrously charged flight of birds, collapses of flesh and skin; his range is impressive.

“Peeradina began his conversation with First Offence, his first book. Thirty-six years later, with this one, we see how he has kept faith with his listeners by having left himself open to varieties of response rather than to the echoes of solipsistic self-absorption, a position he determinedly shuns. It’s an unfashionable stance, but well earned and rewarding.”

— Adil Jussawalla

“Saleem Peeradina, poet, essayist, editor, anthologist, teacher, is one of the writers, artists, and intellectuals that during the past half century made Bombay central to the development of a lively, cosmopolitan, international, modern culture in India. He wrote about his surroundings, his life, and the conflicts between how he wanted to live and what was expected and possible. He remains a poet of the present, of desires, and expected social and cultural roles, along with the actualities of his life, especially his married life. Many of the later poems focus on food, especially fruits, and animals, especially birds, as emblems, moral symbols for observation and reflection. A noticeable theme of the poems is awareness of the many, often tiring and burdensome, roles expected of women. You do not need to be a feminist to recognise how much is expected of women.

“Peeradina’s verse is very readable, like rhythmic prose, without the tight-knit complexities and puzzling ambiguities of many modern poets. Sense is not overwhelmed by sound, metaphors, symbols or displays of craft; the foundations are syntax, spacing, and line breaks. The rhythms are from speech. The images describe reality. He responds to the world around him both through description and self-inspection. He appears to be always addressing the reader along with himself. He is unusually aware of behaviour; poems on many topics are sometimes indirectly about his life; he is an unusual moralist among poets. To read his poems is to know him. I especially like the poems celebrating the joys of parenting and marriage; such poetry celebrating normal life is rare.”

— Bruce King

Weight 1.5 kg
Dimensions 30 × 15 × 5 cm


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Through a Journey

Through a journey’s hurtling window
Across flung stations,
With fugitive eye I gauge the country.

And over the slow latitudes of soil
Beyond the sun-struck sketch of vegetation,
See the endless repetition
Of your frame, animal and iron fix

The hard angle
Of field, well, soiled shelter.
Holding, between the blank sky
And brown routes of travelled lines
Your segments of toil.

But before I can forge
The necessary dream (a plastic

Climate, changed sun, the grained flow
Of rain, willing tools for all this excess
Country) to knock me blind
With a dazzle of rice,

The window has moved into
Another eternal scene.
And already, on the far axle
That spins our stations apart
From the landscape closing round the map
Of your unsolved spaces,

A morsel runs aground in my mouth.

To a Wife Not My Own

On the stairs that day, when
with an exquisite sweep you bunched your hair
above your shoulders and with tilted eyes
asked: Does your hair ever feel hot?
I should have followed with my slight fingers
the line of your raised elbows
and, pausing on the nape of your neck,
should have quieted your smouldering skin
with my immutable lip-prints.

Instead, I sat as if abandoned
by my nerve and your hair tumbled
down and clasping your knee you broke
hastily into conversation.

Did you never notice the way my gaze failed
to make your brief rite perpetual?

Cliché Nation

You might say
The writing is on the wall
And all bets are off.
But bringing home the bacon
Isn’t like it used to be
In the good ‘ole days’.
Still, I’m holding down a job
Working my butt off
To keep the wolf from the door.
I do the best I know how
To keep clothes on your back
And a roof over your head.
So don’t die on me
Before you fix dinner.
I’m not ready for the meltdown, yet.

Letters Crossing

As I seal the envelope to drop it in
The eagle’s mouth, I hear it taking off
With a Mississippi of letters trailing skyward.
Ten thousand miles away, you rise

From your desk, blue aerogramme in hand,
To feed the red box. Sprung up in the air,
In a virtual Himalaya of mail, your letter
Heading this way, will blindly cross mine

At thirty-five thousand feet. But imagine
An earth-defying, gravity-mocking act
Of impossibility: jumping ship, my letter
Seeks out yours which has also broken

Loose, to perform a wild, high altitude
Dance on a ruffled bed of clouds. Only this
Brief, myth-making moment before our letters cross,
Riding their downward arcs East and West.