Home Literature Still Life by AK Ramanujan Summary and Analysis

Still Life by AK Ramanujan Summary and Analysis

by Litinbox

‘Still Life’ is a very short minimalistic poem written by AK Ramanujan. Though the poem is simple and short, its impactful and poignant description make the poem phenomenal.

In some perspective the poem is interesting and in other ways it is confusing and misleading. The poem is written in free verse and as with many of his poems, AK Ramanujan employs his popular poetic technique called ‘enjambment’. Most of the lines run into the next without punctuation marks.

Still Life by AK Ramanujan

When she left me

after lunch, I read

for a while.

But I suddenly wanted

to look again

and I saw the half-eaten



lettuce and salami,

all carrying the shape

of her bite.

Still Life Summary

The lines can be interpreted but not limited to the following. This poem describes the speaker’s feelings and actions after sometime close to his heart has left him. After having lunch together, the speaker reads for a little bit.

However, he suddenly looks around again and notices half-eaten foods left on the table. The bread, lettuce, and salami in the sandwich still show the shape of the bite taken by the person who has left. This sight reminds the speaker of the person who just departed.

Still Life Analysis

“Still Life” deals with the speaker’s pains of solitude, love and longing for someone who is close to his heart. When you decipher the poem, the 11 lines of the poem comprise only two sentences. But the emotion it captures can’t be fully decoded. After reading so many times, the readers still have many unanswered questions.

“She” in the first line of the poem is not clear. Though the speaker can be identified with the poet, it’s not clear whom does the “she” refers to. If this word refers to the speaker’s wife, the scenario can be this.

The speaker’s wife in an argument or fight ensued between them, has left him alone. The lunch is not over.  She has left midway during their lunch. The half-eaten foods suggest this. The leftovers like bread, sandwich, lettuce and salami found on the table remind him of her absence. He tries to divert his attitude in reading, but her memories disturb him. The vacuum created by her absence can never be filled up again.

The imageries ‘half-eaten sandwich’ and ‘the shape of her bite’ are extremely emotional and these capture something deeper, the spirit or soul which is lost in her absence.

The partly eaten foods may also suggest the excess foods or leftovers after the lunch. But, it strongly suggests that both the speaker and his beloved one have left the table midway their lunch. The “she” can also be the speaker’s daughter. If this assumption is right, then this poem is about the bond between father and daughter.

Since the poem is very short and provides no clues about the identity of the personalities present in the poem, the lines are open to multiple interpretations and the readers can find their own meanings and themes.

Theme of Love

The main theme of the poem is the longing for love. After his beloved has left him, the speaker is restless and unable to divert his attention. He tries to engage in reading, but it doesn’t work out and again he attracted towards the moment when his beloved has left him.

The speaker feels a sudden surge of feelings of love after separation as he looks at the partly eaten foods still left on the table. The line “But I suddenly wanted to look again” suggests that the speaker looks at the leftovers on the table again and again. That means he is able to digest the separation from his beloved. The title of the poem “Still Life” may suggest this that the speaker feels the life becomes ‘still’ and doesn’t move on after she left him.

As already mentioned, “Still Life” gives no clear clues to exactly explain the situation. The readers are neither able to appreciate the poet nor criticise him for his shortfall of words. However, one can understand the poem according to his or her own preference.