Sunday, 20 August 2017

A ship without anchor

“For a canoe that comes to pick flowers 
to be with bullets riddled
in the middle of a reservoir
let license be granted to a lotus
among red petals a pistol to conceal.

“Instead of bringing forth separately
for common internment 
let us decree that the ocean 
must henceforth construct a plain
for a river another river to meet 
face to face.”

“Alright friend,
but tell me
of what use is the proximate sound of a lighthouse 

for a ship that has its anchor lost?” 

[translation of "නැංගුරම නැති නැවක්" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The poet’s curse*

It must be an unwritten love
or a love without words
something between verse and verse 
a teasing ethereality 
an absence or a longed-for 
too precious for the vulgarity of form
or description;
yes, poets who write about love
may not have it
but are nevertheless loved —
for theirs is the language of belonging
not ownership,
in the feudalism of romance
they care not for deed
but tenuriality 
— even in passing —
is land enough for love.
This they know.  

*”It is a poet's curse to be able to write about love but not have it…”

Even the Menik Ganga peed*

Two hundred breasts
when by two divided, one hundred women
the feast was splendid indeed
even the Menik Ganga** fell incontinent upon its shores

Having removed a hundred jewelled girdles, brasiers, pearl necklaces and earrings 
The mango was cut, slice by slice, even as the Goddess Pattini residence held
Even Manamperi*** peeked out hearing the whistles and joyous cheers
Submerged was the Vedahiti Kanda with the yolk of peacock eggs

Two hundred smoldering eyes
when by two divided, one hundred women
the feast was splendid indeed
even the Menik Ganga** fell incontinent upon its shores

[translation of "මැණික් ගඟටත් ඉවුරේ චූ යයි" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

*A politician threw a party to celebrate sexually abusing a hundred women — news item
** Literally, ‘River of Jewels’ which, for many Sri Lankans is the holiest river in the island, and which falls into the sea in the Southern Province, the ‘territory’ of the said politician

***Reference to Premawathi Manamperi, beauty queen of Kataragama, abducted, raped and killed by those tasked to put down an insurrection

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The love story

He kissed her forehead 
and felt the union of ice and lava 
sunflower and moonbeam;
he looked into her eyes
and within them 
unnamed oceans discovered;
he held her hand
and found salvation;
he whispered her name
again and again 
and willed his voice 
into a crazy orbit of her being
even as her ‘elusivity’ 
sidestepped love
tripped heart 
and birthed insanity;
and in that blessed intoxication
slumber collapsed into the arms of dreams.

She felt his lips on forehead
and thereafter of bindi had no need;
felt his eyes on her eyes
gaze on eyelash
breath on lips 
and realized
the outshadowing of eyeshadow
blush that bested blush
and the exquisite gloss 
that paled lipstick;
she felt his hand on wrist
and felt decorated with bangles;
she heard his words wrap
in a sari of a thousand kites
and felt thoughts blur into a singular perfume;
and thus did she make of him
a jeweler, a cosmetician, designer 
and dream-catcher.

And then they were silent
she and he --
and in that stillness
they read the timeless poetry
of moments 

that obliterated time. 

Friday, 21 July 2017


Lifted in coiffered arrangement -- cloth wrapped tight
Princess who with red buneela petals the floor bedecked
Circled thrice in homage -- the bed where Sattuka lay
Kundalakesi of a machete's seven blows 

Grabs necklaces does Sattuka -- peddles weed does Sattuka
Law enforcement does visit the humble hut now and again
Princess who drew from Sattaka -- the whiplash sting
Flying to Welikada with a packet of rice armed 

Gamble he does -- brothels frequents too Sattaka
Princess who never complained until now
Who from the bed in consternation fell 
At the little girl's plaintive cry 'No, Thaatthe, No'

Circled thrice in homage -- the bed where Sattuka lay
Kundalakesi of a machete's seven blows 

[translation of "කුණ්ඩලකේසී " from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Friday, 14 July 2017


Like soft light
reflected from guitar strings
and heart-glass,
like long silence
between monosyllables,
a half smile from knowing eyes,
slow in so many ways
because the mind raced
or had a long time ago --
still life,
that's you:
quietness that delights
in moments that stay 
long after capture 
and the exit
of all conspirators.  

Pic by Sharni Jayawardena

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

“Love is never illicit!”

A midnight assertion 
took me to many yesterdays
the loving turning and re-turning of pages
the rolling of words on a mind-tip 
and an evening of finality,
that moment   
when Seeress asked and the Master replied
and where at the exhaustion of query
even after blessedness was acknowledged 
two questions had arrived and in arrival were answered:
“Was it I who spoke?  Was I not also a listener?”

I re-read the prophetic prescription
the nutshell version 
of the book “All about love”
and, in the manner of our days,
pressed ‘ctrl F’;
I called for “illicit”
and then 
in seerish presumption
from that unyielding text requested,
“And what of the licit, Master?”

There arose 
from the flame-tip
of an oil lamp
lit in a long forgotten temple 
the softest silence
and which, bathed 
in timeless luminosity 

And so in crippled tongue
this I am compelled to say:

It is no sin 
to name the undefined 
but we desist
on account of vulgarity;
the beloved is nameless
and therefore variously named;
the question of propriety
is a verse on moonlight
so why write about luminosity 
when to let it clothe 
is verse enough? 

Oh! Beloved!
I’ve digressed
so let me 
to the country of love