Three new poems by Maya Surya Pillay

The Johannesburg Review of Books presents previously unpublished poetry by Maya Surya Pillay.



Your mother did not abort the gun.
Your mother fed the gun breastmilk from a bottle.
Your mother let the gun sit in her lap and dried its hair.

You’re like this now. You end in a dark hole.
They thought you were you. You were only a gun.
You grew in a woman. You shot her from the inside.

In your gut the flash is waiting. The sun is in your hole.
Your mother holds the gun in her arms.
She asks you not to speak anymore.



I want to get out of this body.
Too small. Toting the overbrain
like a new baby. I dream of storage space.
I want to eat with my legs open.
I would like to be a horned herbivore
felled in the snow. I would like the steam to come up
from my poppy of gut, to pause in the white air,
and to drop into the mouth of the hunter, whose legs
are so thickly muscled he can carry the world between them.



You know like you come to my house
coupla times your neighbours too meet
now you catch up my word and I catch up your word
that’s how it is

Washing my voice in the
School pool back then
Beating my vowels flat
Rinsing the salt off

Plucking the root
Of that leftbranching language

Cleaning my voice because
I couldn’t clean my skin
Talkin so nice huh
So clever you are

One two years at the private school
Im not bluffin Im not lyin I
Im dirty Im made of shit
They donno it when they hear me but

Clean crystalline sound for the west city
You think the white people know what I did
You think they notice or you think they think
I’m one of them pullin they skin over

I am the cuckoo-bird in assembly
Capering tongue-out under their wools

Ey such a white girl youre
Nothin indian about you huh

Tulipomanic jaw windmills
Nun slips out on my tongue
Funny little thing that lives in my throat
I sati myself for the sake of the dead

Me I’m a poet I got your language
By the scruff of its broad red neck me
I’m a poet your language got mine
Face down in red waters
                                            that’s how it is


Previously unpublished, © Maya Surya Pillay, 2018

  • Maya Surya Pillay was born in Durban in 1997. She is a medical student at the University of Cape Town, or maybe she is just a very fresh cadaver. Her writing has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Alien Mouth, Aerodrome, Type/Cast, Q-zine, Afridiaspora, and Ja. Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

The JRB Poetry Editor is Rustum Kozain

Header image: Benedict Park/Unsplash

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