Saturday, 8 October 2011

An ode to today*

Yesterday the proclamation of independence,
The cloud burst on drought-ridden histories,
The feverish composition of anthem, the dance of peacocks,
The sunrise greeted by a 21-gun salute
The colouring of hope and the overflowing of milk and honey.

Yesterday the unthinkable embrace of leader and led
The wild humour of illusion and the waiver of colonial debts
The return of monarch in tie and coat and Old Spiced tongue
The manufacture of skies and winds for spider-web kites.

Yesterday the re-discovery and reaffirmation of chronicle,
The voice of the fresco and the fragrance of manure,
The tilling of new lands, the proliferation of blueprints
The drowning in utopia and the flushing of guilt.

Yesterday the happy collapse of contradiction
The veneration of the Master, the transcription of dreams
The confusion of past with future, the banishment of moment,
Yesterday the night of the ancestor the resurrection of blood.
Yesterday the extrapolations from 'if only', the sigh of nostalgia,
The comfort zone of the weak, the bugbear of the rootless,
But today, the dissolution of ideology, the scrambling of agenda
A reality, a threat and the waiving of all options but this: fight.

Yesterday the sowing of master plans, the postponement of love
The smirk of a money-lender and the chagrin of the gambler,
But today, the unwavering gaze upon a land and a people,
A tear drop that bites and a war thrust down your throat.

Yesterday the chanting of pirith, the Christmas party, the Call to Prayer,
The surfacing of the eternal verities, the illusory power of argument,
But today, the dismembered arm, the frozen gaze, an orphan and a widow
The burning of boats and the confiscation of option; the struggle.

For there is a thief and a murderer at the gate, and blood on the walls
Thief within and a thousand conditionalities locked to benevolence
A nation, a heritage, a people who have tilled and will till
The ploughing of dreams and the planting of intoxicants.

There is a child wearing a capsule of death, a mother robbed of words
There is a chant, a shout, an order: forget, forget, forget!
And there is ash that rises, blood that fertilizes and there is memory
A nation, yes, a people, yes, and 500 years looking down, waiting, waiting.

What is this proposal mouthed in so many languages? Succumb to tyranny!
What is this design? Restore the order of the earth, as defined by a sycophant!
What are these movements, this to and fro across a parliament floor?
Return, return to that other life which was death, the construction of cemeteries!

Sepulchral memories don't die, they run down waterways, hang from trees,
They are made of a constitution that entrapped a nation and saluted a thief,
And the earth resists, not to defend a President, but a one-chance-in-hell,
Yesterday, a smile, tomorrow too, perhaps a smile, but today the moment of sobriety.

Tomorrow perhaps a different time, a landscape differently contoured,
The support for the necessary impeachment, the dethroning of tyrants,
The investigation of pilferage, the evicting of clowns,
The restoration of law and order, and the beatification of the saintly.

Tomorrow the watering of gardens, the cohabitation of enemies,
The softening of anger, and the harvesting of fallow fields once again
The gathering of dreams, weaving of tapestries made of rice and rain
The banishment of petty politicking and the moment of serious debate.

Tomorrow a parliament, a government and an opposition,
A responsible media and newspapers using the ink of neutrality,
Tomorrow a time for restraint, a time for indulgence and a time to let go,
Today, a nation besieged that must unshackle, must struggle and overcome.

Tomorrow, a time for the political joke and the odd cartoon,
The scoring of debating points, the parry and thrust of nation-making,
Tomorrow the time to change faces, the showering votes of no-confidence,
Today, the hour of the resolute heart that fights the intruder.

Today a historical juncture, the decision to be slave or citizen,
To turn back and spit upon the dead solider, the tears
Of mothers, children, lovers, friends and everyone, everyone
In whose name they died, they died, they died.

Yesterday, the century of beginning, growth and wonderment,
Tomorrow, a return to pilgrimage and worship and romance,
Today, the chanting of pirith, the emphasis on nation and nationality,
Today, a tyrant at the gate and a people encircled: today, the fight, the fight.

*This was written when there were moves by powerful nations as well as spoilers within Sri Lanka to turn back the offensive against the world's most ruthless terrorist outfit, the LTTE, and at a moment when these forces sought to oust the then government by defeating the budget. It is a play on W.H. Auden's poem, 'Spain 1939' and is in the collection 'Threads, shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2007.


Friday, 7 October 2011

In Ancient Kotmale

Silent, unmoving, unmovable mountains
blue upon blue upon blue
green on green on brown
so like the layers of a sari,
coolness in waves
heart-arresting land
it is you that arrived
you who did not remain
you who left with the sun,
leaving fireflies and memories.

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


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Other lines

There are lines
of mind and heart,
wave-remnant and sand,
and other ephemeral things
erased, re-drawn,
going up in smoke.
Then there are seamless places,
territories of being
continents that collapse;
and between movement and stillness,
a moment, a memory
and a you that slipped into me
and a dissolving that gave
an indescribable us.

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

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


They come in soiled, forgotten colours,
made of inferior cotton,
made for breaking
and of use only to the delicate touch,
these threads.
They are offered simply
for a singular weaving
possible only with heart-fingers
as such whose caresses I’ve known
in moments
so terribly orphaned since.

[This is the title poem from my collection 'Threads', shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2007]


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Time is a moment

This is the embrace of wind,
breezes that traversed the earth
and had wept throughout solitary centuries.
this is the conjugation of incomplete dreams,
the marriage of absences.
this is the intersection
of lonely orbits,
that had moved through dark eternities.
this is the union birthing promethean fire:
history's most sacred stolen moment,

the one that will not be footnoted.
Reason enough to smile.
Yes, enough to weep, too.

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


Monday, 3 October 2011

Ode to rain

There was a time,
a time of innocence, perhaps,
perhaps not,
a time of unambiguous preference certainly:
rain, rain, go away,
go away, go away.
A time without question
without answer, without explanation;
no why, no where,
no absorption of texture and text,
and nothing of silence and absence,
just a simple line: go away.
It took time, yes,
but there was a showering in that passing,
and inconvenience slipped to benevolence,
falling raindrop clothed as arrow,
rain as the uniting of sky and earth,
descent of cloud
and subsequent carving of signature
as rivulet blossoming into river,
a soft turning:
the fear of elemental overload
bending into awe at celestial union.
A growing up, yes,
a recovery too,
the reclaimed territory
of paper boats, overflowing drains,
baths under a broken pipe,
the joy of 'uncopability'
and the bliss of comprehension,
knowing after so many centuries
that there was no going away,
but only a coming back,
a gathering of dreams
and in some small way,
a collapsing of certain hearts
that never understood 'going away'
and never really will.
[From my collection 'Threads', shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2007]

Sunday, 2 October 2011

An ink account

I've fallen,
like ink
upon a discontented page,
smudged sensibilities,
and erased coherence.
I've fallen like dead leaf
and apple,
and lie among remnants
the archival memories
visited infrequently.
you came like dew,
and the worlds became green,
your words and silences
wrote the poetry of the impossible,
the softest hurts,
the sharpest caressing.
And I cannot write,
not of leaf, dew or relevant landscapes,
I can write perhaps of dust
and other sad things.

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

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