Poem from Say by Sarala Estruch (flipped eye, 2021)



No more stepping from the loins of the silver bird

into the hot, breathy mouth of India. The single step

through the plane’s open door leads to a tunnel

identical to the one we stepped into eleven hours ago

at Heathrow. Grey-carpeted, white plastic walls

on all sides, a canal birthing us into the womb of

Indira Gandhi International Airport. The man

at immigration peers at us, our children; asks

for passports, visas, forms. We fumble, fingers drowsy

after flight. In crossing half the world, we’ve lost a night,

the almost-noon Delhi sun tumbling through skylights.

He shuffles papers. Sweat pearls my upper lip.

Why do I suddenly feel like a fraud? He enunciates

my name the way Indians do, with a hard rolling ‘r’

I can’t replicate. ‘Yes. My father was Indian.’

He is incredulous. ‘And where is your husband from?’

‘Jamaica.’ The immigration man is half-amused,

half-bemused. ‘The children are very mixed,’ I grin.

‘They are universal,’ the officer says, handing us

our papers. The gate opens, and the room is shining,

sunlight scuttling off the white floor, walls, our broad smiles.

My husband takes our son’s hand, I take our daughter’s.

Praise for Say by Sarala Estruch (flipped eye, 2021)

‘Sarala Estruch’s extraordinary debut flows from the question posed by Audre Lorde: “What do you need to say?” From these engrossing, wise, surprising poems, we learn about the poet’s struggle to “coax words from hiding”, but also about need: the need to speak, the need to hold back, the need for closeness — whether across the threshold of the page, or across the gulf of death. Say is the work of a spellbinding storyteller, who pieces together a cloth shot through with silences: old griefs, family secrets, the blindspots around race and colonial history from which our culture still turns away. “Still, I’m not brave enough to ask”, the poet regrets of her younger self. These poems shine with that bravery: I will come back to them again and again.’

— Sarah Howe

‘Sarala Estruch’s Say grieves, is grief, gives grief its echo. Here, a father is not lost but binds the daughter in an intricate web of mourning for home, language, belonging as well as love. The poems make uncanny crystalisations in a transformative image, a rhythm, a fragment, swelling with empathy. The poet speaks with two voices, wishes them into one, and what is said fractures language in its frame.’

— Sandeep Parmar


Reviews of Say

“Sarala Estruch’s debut pamphlet Say takes grief as its central matter, interwoven with questions of postcolonial identity and understanding. The pamphlet is split into two sections, broadly divided into childhood and adulthood. The pamphlet – following the childhood loss of the poet’s father – tracks the reclamation of words in the wake of loss, tracing a life lived from a distance, geographically as well as emotionally.

The uncertainty of belonging and un-belonging is consistently present within the work. It is evoked through images of hybridity (‘I research the origins of the modern rose & discover’), actualised through the sense of continual journeying, and explored in the typographic experimentation in ‘cracked pavement’, ‘denial (i), (ii), (iii)’, and ‘how to talk about loss’. …”

— Sylvia Secci in Poetry London

To order a copy of Say by Sarala Estruch, click here.