Architecture of Flesh by Ravi Shanker (Ra Sh)

Architecture of Flesh by Ravi Shanker (Ra Sh)

Rarely do you find a book that can be a kinkiness starter kit, a philosophical ideal, an emergency substitute for erotic literature and a brimming pot of searing poetry. While some poems are cleverly funny and seemingly light hearted to the point of mockery, others have a darkness and poignancy that tugged my inner lyre.

For instance, these lines made me melt into gossamer sighs:

“We made love, memory on memory,
On the shores of that sea
That smelt of lived lives…”

Whereas, these lines were cheerfully and insouciantly irreverent:

“Then, I met a Word Cleaner who worked in a
Word Asylum who told me words didn’t like detergents.
No prill or thrill for them, said he, continuing in a
Conspiratorial note that the dirtiest word he ever had to clean
Was God.”

I am not sure if this collection can be defined in any way as each poem is giddily different from the other – spinning the readers’ emotions into a cornucopia of delight, outrage, melancholy and lust.

A small, innocuous line can reveal a shocking picture of violence or implied horror. In the poem ‘Architecture of Flesh’ he writes “’Lowly mouse holes’/pried open with upper caste crowbars.”

Here flesh is not a participant in playful games of love and lust but a victim of patriarchy.

There are poems that talk about loss or unattainable loves while others are vicious sensual games that seem both adorable and tragic. In ‘My Plump Girl’ he writes,

“I smooched her with several synonyms of Fat
And whispered
Fat is mouthful, tasteful and eyeful.
A handful of flesh is better than two bones in the bush.”

There are so many of such delicious, searing lines that it is difficult to really pick a favourite. Lyrically, I was most moved by ‘Diving Girl’ especially, the aquatic metaphors and the dreamy underwater feel and the underlying dread that reaches more like an aftertaste.

This collection is exquisitely bizarre and, to truly enjoy, one requires a slightly nonchalant sense of humour. It is like cold-brewed black coffee or Lars Von Trier movies – not all will probably understand the tragic yet curiously amusing subtexts and undertones – but it will surely give them a jolt and leave a lingering after taste. Reading it, I came to the conclusion that beneath my fluffy, commonplace, sparrow exterior lay a brooding, pervy raven. A colleague of mine read this collection and called Ra Sh a “dirty, nasty man” and another called him “clever and evil”. I wonder how they would react if they met this pleasantly chuckling, slow speaking, moustached man .

This book is a must-have for couples with fetishes, and a thing for spine-tingling words. It is gleefully subversive and uninhibitedly celebrates sex taboos, the breaking and blossoming of bodies and mad loves. Take it along on your honeymoon and read passages to each other while doing inappropriate things to unmentionable body parts. Yes, this book is also an instruction manual for loony, loopy lovers.


Architecture of Flesh (2015)
A Collection of poems by Ra Sh (Ravi Shanker)
Published by Poetrywala, Mumbai
Pages 79
Rs 225/-
Foreword by Meena Kandasamy.
Cover Art by Bhaskaran Bara.

Jeena Mary Chacko: Currently working as a content writer, Jeena’s poems and articles have been published in The Rapid Eye, Contemporary Literary Horizon, The New Indian Express, Malayala Manorama and Bhashaposhini. Whenever her insatiable curiosity for all the wonders and whimsies of the universe takes a respite, she lets her harlequin dreams and nightmares takeover and a poem is born.  15 of her poems are included in the anthology A Strange Place Other Than Earlobes. 5 poems are published in