sri lankan poetry
After two hours of
Pretencious company — flimsy talk of
Radical Art, smoke rings
Exhaled like a steamer off course —
I stop by the status of the
Late Minister of Health; and watch, as from his head,
A crow, perched, regard me on a pause.
In his sad eyes he seems to say:
“In a moment comes the unfurled barrage of
Short women carrying their umbrellas,
— Fussing as they splatter redundant drops of rain —
At your shoulder length, cursing you as they
Brush past you; for at rain time they all go mad; insane”.
The drizzle builds up and I see the
Clouds are thicker than I, at first, thought they were.
Darkness spreads from end to end and when I turn back again
To take a second good glance, the ministerial crow
Has taken flight. In the mildness of the soaking spirit
I continue to walk towards the night.
It gathers in the weight with which it falls.
Trickles down the sides of the spectacle arms.
Down the hair-mown head, in what feels like the
Flush of a thousand toilets down the sides of the
Sides of the ears, down the nose. In a moment —
In a moment — It has pelted you. And you stroll on.
I let them be, I let them fester, I let you rot deep inside,
Gave no words that would give you comfort, a shoulder to meander by.
Though you confessed that it is over, that you have really tried,
You already knew that it was all futile. You remain with a sigh.
When he made you lose the child that you carried
And walked away like a bear to a waterhole
— Since you were already a mother and a fool, married —
I made no attempts those wounds to console.
Now, you claim that it is all over, that I’m a vicious enough brute
That doesn’t pay any comfort, attention, when needed the most.
Well, what words can I administer? In what way could one sooth
One who scampers through the breeze to hug some ghost?
Depression and hurt often made her dramatic,
And it was something she had written to me
In one of her traumatic depression moods:
Now, lately discovered, a decade later,
Placed among some letters, receipts,
As safe as I — ten years ago — had left it,
Other dull, unimportant irrelevant things have since
Accumulated on top of it. I was not that keen
In reading a letter — as she told me — would tell me
What a heartless prude devoid of emotion I had been
And as I read it today, way past the deadline and its author,
I tell myself, well, this — this cannot be about me!
Not that I’m misted by narcissist self-importance
— Well I am, I am: but, what I mean is — not now —
But, this document is a pure disgrace to the lover in me.
Whom can I show this to, just for a second opinion?
This slander on who I am, what hurt, pain, cold-hearted
Neglect and past-caring-nonchalance I am said to give?
Perhaps, her frustration had driven her to morbid insanity,
But, that is what the men said of all women who riled to live.
I return it to where it was left for a decade,
The paper tinted yellow, now, guttered at the crease;
I still don’t think, in spite of what she says,
That I could have been what the paper states it is:
But, then, of course: we were wrongfully attached all the more.
We have — the fair large bulk of us —
Grown up to be humps, if not
Logs of wood;
Spent the best of a decade as
A drunk blunder spends the lottery,
And didn’t notice what innocence pass;
Collapsed what’s life into ugly categories; into a class;
Decayed into vermin, who — at the best —
Are dripping and became fat in the process of that becoming.
You — who are
Younger than I am, by a
Decade and a half –,
Who matter to me this much,
Who are close to my heart,
Much intelligent than we ever were to be,
More able, passionate and perceptive
— My endeared hope for the future of the universe –,
As I watch you, there,
I pray for you from where I watch,
That to make meaning of who you are
Without losing out on life, you would go on,
Though I feel — all the same — from where I am
That ten years from now
You might not ever know me,
Wouldn’t remember having seen me; or see me eye to eye.
Then, in a moment’s silence,
While between sentences we stopped
— Almost a pause in our own thoughts —
And as you skimmed deeper and deeper
To a faraway thought of your own
I saw — though in a glimpse — the
Unbearable regret, where you balanced it,
Shut away from the world, unknown to the
Flattery that I offer, untouched by
Your earnest love I had earned.
There, as we conversed, as that lapse emerged,
You looked as uncritical as you could ever
Be to the world. I gauged that you were longing for
A different fate and future: a submission to the best
Of meditated flattery. The short of it, though, was that I had erred.
You knew I was watching you, even as you turned to me
And asked why; but, I didn’t say why,
But re-worded that story which you already knew
And we both listened to what I said; eye evading eye.
You stood up and said you’ll make us some tea.
I turn back for a memory, in my need, to hold on to
And like a flash in a barren open field
— Like the smattering of glass –, the
Collected, carefully preserved past
— Preserved somewhere as the
Preserve of innocent boys —
Stares back at me like dead, white noise.
Mother is left. Gertrude is here.
But, since you were gone
— But for my formal education
For which you had paid —
And since that education was by now complete,
I shrug off what’s dust, turn to poetry;
To your grave.
In between channels,
Where one unstrummed end
Blunderingly hangs, balances on its own,
Flickering in the hope to connect to
The next imminent strand
— There, there is a silence which tells me
In imitation of the Father to the Virgin before the Fall —
That that your education cannot give to you all.
She smiles, benevolently, finds humour
In her own quick stride,
Finds humour in banter, jokes of a different kind:
Makes me wonder at her
Transformed state, her frame of mind.
Flowers dangle, where with delicate touch
She’s brought life back on earth.
I sink to resurface at the sign of birth.
The day the army builds shopping malls,
Puts one on one, the bricks with the masonry,
Guards lesirue parks, paved walkways — runaways —
Talks to school leavers of military decency,
Dredges canals, lakes, rakes huts, tenaments
Of people — dregs of urban society —
Who stand in the way in wonder-ment with no place
To place the swollen woes; in the face of depravity,
March for days and days — Galle Road,
Days before their Independence Ceremony,
Days and days before May 19th — The Day,
Along roads and throngs with cocked guns, in the vicinity
As hundreds-thousand hang, life, in their drinking water drained,
Walk through bus halts galore, through the
Fort train station march — eyebrows
At passing women arch — so that it rings out hard
That the army march, serene as sub-humanly.
The day all chairs, offices, commissions,
Sports federation presidencies,
Diplomatic affairs, school heads,
Ambassador ex-IGPs — retired militancies
Usurp the places where the civil spirit had go,
— Fake Patriots from infected rhetoric pore —
On twisted limb, in pain, the law
An inner circle’s whore,
The day the armies come
Setting buffer zones, cordoning off roads
From where journalists, activists
In sped whirlwinds dissapear; alleged thugs are shot
To the ignoble rodent cheer — who don’t know the day is come –,
Drug-dealers nabbed, sniped, shot or stabbed
In the cover of the unseeing eye — and in the
Rising flames of presses, swollen eyes and cheeks,
Theirs is not to fucking reason why.
And now, Navi Pillai’s come, they say,
To put the stupid country through serious shit!