Mani Rao's poetry is primarily in books called echolocation (2003, Chameleon
Press), Salt (2001, Asia 2000), The Last Beach (1999, Asia 2000), Living Shadows
(1997, Hong Kong Arts Development Council), Catapult Season (1993, Writers
Workshop) and Wingspan (1987, Writers Workshop). Living Shadows and The Last
are bilingual collections, including Chinese translations by Huang Chan Lan.
Living Shadows has been translated into French. Several representative pieces from
Mani's writing have been translated into Chinese and German. Poems here are
extracted from echolocation. For more information, visit

Extracts from echolocation

The demon and the dog whirl in space, the knives are out, flashing, and shame.

She makes you eat spit and he who gives you shelter is already a refugee. She is a carrier for screams fortified with use and he has lost his fuck.

Everyone is innocent, contagious.

Arranged again in parallel lines, my bare feet face the door, welcoming the railroad of time space.

But death is not interested when I am.

I wake up like a dancer into a rehearsed, familiar position. The boatman has vanished leaving the oars and I am inflating unstoppably into my hollows—shoes, clothes, pen,

I leave myself in the terrace and go downstairs. I leave myself in the living room and go to the kitchen.

I get together sometimes, a hall of mirrors, swearing different stories, playing you-know-that-I-know-that-you-know-that-I-know.

They are all true, some truths you know, some you don't.

You look for too much explanation.

I can go back to fetch a better memory. And I can recur if you wish.

Bury me in a frozen lake, saltless and safe, some day lifted to the eyes of a new person, telling her what to call me as she probes me.

Drop me on coral entangled, hair streaming in the current, rocking on a seabed of pistons.

Leave me in the garden slope, a dial tilted to the stars, on the orange trail as they roll to rot.

Bury me bare as a bird obvious on a tree in autumn.

Was desire meant to be saved, kept alive, unanswered? But this is a deathfuck, different, the more I dismember, the more I want,

And you my queen of honeylips, the only one who ever knew how to make a ghost of me, play me a new song, recall me.

The nagman brings a daily death, squeezes my breasts, a clay clasp cooler than your hand, gives me fingers and teeth.

The gardener of dust is using my frame as a mould for the shape of future dust. This is how the dust will grow and the pencilling will fall to bits.

The days hatch around you feed their hurried mouths. The years open like doors, one by one they shut behind you; some softly, some bang shut.

Chin glacier melting on jawslope. Long breasts empty pockets. Skin in under water sog.

Unhitched you hurl in two opposite directions. Your mind speeds on, a whistle, minding nothing; your body's best crash, I see it coming.

The sky is fitted linen, stretched over sealine without a crease, pegged to the spikes and jags of mountains, kingsize, navy, preparing to be sunshot. Sooner than lovers can hide, no sooner than the taste of stars striking your lips, one by one stunned and falling to light.

It's all been said and yet, need, blowing between our lips, streams inside a tree. We flowed out of time and back so soon eating eggs our own. Through each other we pass like water.

At the sun to see how it never changes, at the moon to see how it does, algae slipping beneath our feet, roots travelling and dewdrops dying in visible speed. There is no such thing as a circular river.

Unlike bread, the body becomes softer with age. We tag our children with our names, store the plaits of our daughters, stash berries under rocks and look for them later.

Held in the fangs of a wristwatch, a well-worn path of a nail in our veins, heart-hammered time trail.

No matter who two are kissing, eternity arrives, jelly bean eyes black crystal balls.

The longer we look, the more we recognize and anything we could say is too obvious. The songs we like are the songs we know, and every song on the radio is about us.


Tags - tracks - cartography.

Telling a mountain by its outline, a river by its turns, joining the dots, revising distances, placing things.

Turning points and stop signs. When you know the word for it, call off the detectives.

Monkeys, we leap from word to word, thick with meaning. Spiders, our words are resilient webs, we make snares in the colour of air, sweet-smelling and sticky.

Please, do not say a single word. Expressed, dead. You have my word.

The world is no more than an old word. You can go from dedication to deadication, from host to ghost, but I can carve you out of the air again, unearth your shreds, float my eyelash back into the old oceans.

How did you think you would stop talking to me, I never hung up the telepath.

I have not remembered you, but I have not forgotten you.

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