Subashini Navanatram

He thinks she is made of a different kind of flesh than his:
Flesh soaked in dusk, in moon, in heat, and in wine,
Flesh anointed with cinnamon and ash and the promise of 
                                                   				           something just out 
                                                        				       of	        reach

	Yes, flesh is never just flesh
Seen through the colonizer’s gaze,
The price fluctuates

Later, he might say that
He lost his mind to the idea of an island breeze

They offer their bread and butter, winter coats, and leather shoes
That’s how all it all begins. Mine for yours, 
The appearance of a fair exchange

                          The flesh of the occupied is a map on which
                          The conqueror plots his new route

What’s the refrain to the only song you know?
	One woman’s flesh is another man’s meat
	One woman’s flesh is another woman’s costume
No, it’s not any song that I know

                          (But was it love?) 

He scribbles it down: flower of hate, Venus of a dark archipelago
Keeps her alive in the pages of poetry / a gift (For whom?)
Remaking her again and again, for all of his eternity

                           (Love? Maybe)

Writing is one way to change a story
Or, like that night in 1791 in Bois Caïman, of which she never knew,
                                                                                                  (or did she)
one can make a new body out of many bodies
and set it (the master’s story) on fire


(This poem was inspired by Angela Carter’s short story “Black Venus”. “He thinks she is made of a different kind of flesh than his” is a line from the story. It tells the fictionalised tale of Jeanne Duval, Charles Baudelaire’s French-Haitian lover, who was the inspiration for Baudelaire’s celebrated Fleurs du Mal.)

Subashini Navaratnam lives in Selangor, Malaysia and has published poetry and prose in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Mascara Literary Review, Poetika Malaysia, Aesthetix, Sein und Werden, minor literature[s], Anak Sastra, and Jaggery. Her writings on books have appeared in The Star (Malaysia), Pop Matters, 3:AM Magazine and Full Stop and she has published nonfiction in MPH’s anthology, Sini Sana and Buku Fixi’s ebook, Semangkuk INTERLOK as well as fiction in KL Noir: Yellow. She tweets at @SubaBat.