Saturday, 1 October 2011

Ode to walking

Streets and buses know my name,
faces recognise my face
which recognises faces in return,
for I've always, always walked.
I walk with small change
through and around puddles,
drenched in sunlight and things to do,
carrying the night in my pocket
and the political on my shoulders.
I travel light
tossing the net of my eyes,
drawing in sudden joys,
known sorrows and children,
the commerce in boutiques
the smile of a waiter,
the argument between a vendor and a woman.
I've walked alone,
moving between the I-am-dispassionate
and the I-can't-bear-the-pain.
I've walked home
carrying my diurnal collection
of people and things.
I walk still,
the same streets whose name I know
like the smile of an old friend.
My small change goes
from hand to hand
and disappear into unknown pockets,
the night of the political
the day of absorption
these have not changed.
And so I undress the disguised,
hear sounds
outside of the marked frequencies,
songs I've heard of but not listened to,
melodies familiar and yet unrecognised.
I walk. Sometimes.

[From the collection 'Threads', shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2007]

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Friday, 30 September 2011


(for all our children)

I am colour-driven and song-driven,
did you know?
I am the world you abandoned,
the dream you erased,
made of toys, sand castles
and insects,
swings, matslides and see-saws.
I am magician too;
I turn you into encyclopedia and prophet.
I am the one who fell,
who bruised a knee and stubbed a toe
tripped over a careless word,
an adult trap,
bled and cried.
I forget easily and forgive too
for I like clinging on to a little finger,
I have things to show
I have things to tell.
I am colour-driven
and song-driven,
did you know?

I do dishes and carry guns
heavy loads too,
twice my size,
look after babies
colour-driven and song-driven
just like me.

I am the you you’ve forgotten,
the you you’ve left behind,
and song-driven,
didn't you know?

[from the collection 'Threads', shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2007]

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ode to sterility*

Once again I find myself at the theatre,
once again the theatricals,
and in this dramatic world
of scripts and players,
dialogues and soliloquies,
tragedies, comedies and
all that fall in between,
I know I should not complain.
I know of the back and forth,
the false starts, the prompting
I can pick the sterling performances
from the pedestrian,
I know the passengers, the props,
the backstage team,
for I have played this game when I've had to,
sat and watched when I chose or could
turned and left at times.
but this,
this drama in several acts,
these players prompted to read
from a well-crafted script,
this well-rehearsed unfolding
of plot, intent and climax,
the make-up and the practiced expressions -
does not provoke disgust,
as would a poor performance.
Instead a fire is kindled in my heart,
and taking that Promethean instrument,
I steal away,
visit endless nights of discontent
lanced with the light of a firefly,
sad histories interrupted by the heroics
of simple men and women,
a railway station, a bar,
an empty courtroom,
I burn cobwebs and rehabilitate rebellion
in the faint light of this tender candle
I peer into faces aged with reason and resolve,
I mine from the unchanging gaze
the sparks of romance,
gather continents of desire
resurrect utopia,
and bathed in this moonlight of solidarity,
I reconsider the forgotten maps of freedom,
their pathways, the road blocks
and escape routes.
I visit a temple,
breathe the fragrance of Araliya,
Sal and sweet Jasmine,
untouched yet by the acrid smell
of gunpowder,
for the bombs are yet to erupt on the altar.
I take a young girl's dream and
dance along a stream,
through a paddy field
into the bluest sky
and along the curve of a rainbow.
And again and again,
as I wander,
that flame takes me home,
to a girl and a story book.
And so, inquisitor,
let me to my reading.

* Written during an ‘inquiry’ into certain allegations made by the Divaina editorial staff at Upali Newspapers Ltd., sometime in late 2003.

[from the collection 'Threads,' shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2007]

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The hare and the tortoise: another version

One night the hare confessed,
"I have no ego, I let the tortoise win
just to see him smile."
And another night, the tortoise said,
"I am kind, I let her have her way
just to see her smile."
And the moon whispered:
"There is such charm
in the games that lovers play".

[From the collection 'Threads', shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2007]

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A note from the Mediterranean

These waters are not our seas, nor these shores our sands
They hardly break, these waves and as for colour,
This blue-green blends a different composition,
Temperatures, these Turkish winter days, are hardly tropical
As of course one would expect.
There are other differences:
The mountains don't really roll down to the sea,
They drop
These elemental faces carved by the ancient,
'halt!' they tell the sea, 'rest awhile if you will,' they tell the sky.
No gold in these breaches, it's not fine the sand.
No shells, no crustacean crafting,
Such were reserved for other lands, other people perhaps.
Treasures now, such there are
And they speak to me,
Of legend and tragedy,
Dream and awakening,
Exploits and misadventure
And love,
Requited and lost;
Treasures made of stone,
Caressed by wind and water
Polished by time
And they come
In the colours of Mediterranean fruit,
A fermentation of heart-things,
wines spilling over,
blood drenched and sun worn.
They lie now
Baked in the brine of nostalgia
The vats in forgotten cellars
And secret caves
And I report,
I am unsettled by these histories
I am ignorant of
The men and women whose sweat I have not seen,
The territorial wrenching that gave birth to nations
The grasp and yield that re-drew maps;
Yes, unsettled as I watch these unfamiliar seas
And as I wait for a word, a glance,
A knowing about the unknowns
Associated with love,
With remembrance
And futures that will not, cannot be inhabited.

[from the collection 'Threads', shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2007]

Monday, 26 September 2011

RAIN AND LIES (after Fikrit Kizilok)

Mid-morning heat in late September,
desk top artifacts stare,
the in-tray and out-tray of my mind
play hide and seek,
ink flies from paper, from memory and forgetting,
staplers go mad
trying to pin together the untenable.
It is mid-morning here
and wherever you are,
it must be late evening for you,
pastel-coloured and soft,
and I,
I am whipped by the lies of time
of location and remembrance.
I am told there's bright sunshine
rising in a stupor from the road outside
but it is raining here
and drenched in a time-squeeze
I am visited by teardrop and sigh;
so tell me
dream-ribbon that scented time,
tell me,
is it all a lie
when you come to me
again and again
through nighttime and daybreak
and dew-laden fields?

Sunday, 25 September 2011


Doors are special to me.
Their colours, shapes, sizes
the worlds they hide
and the worlds they keep out
these things fascinate me.
Doors are special to me
because they burst with metaphor,
they tempt trajectories
they draw lines
and say yes or no and perhaps maybe.
Doors are special to me
because I leave mine open;
they can be removed altogether
but I leave them open
for this is the difference
between indifference and invitation.
doors are special to me
because I cannot will them to open
and I cannot lure people in through mine.
doors are special to me
because histories and hopes are special
and they have to walk through them.
or choose not to.
doors are special to me
because they are splendid places
to wait and wait and wait.