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Saturday, 15 October 2011

Iron-made


She was made of iron
and maybe so was i.
our journeys, our paths
maybe they were made of iron too.
but then came intersection
and perhaps
the universe bent just there,
to make texture breathe,
to make cold fragrant
to make a marshmallow moment.
Only for lives to diverge,
resume preordained pathways
so that all things recovered
by and by
their original names.
there was a moment for us.
And it so happened
it was not of iron made.

[from my collection 'Threads,' shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award, 2007]
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Friday, 14 October 2011

Waiting is made for centuries

Insignificant syllable
in a buried history,
lost note in a forgotten symphony,
hard tear shed by defeat
that goes unlamented,
I of lamp-lighting
and story telling,
endless walks that led to abrupt ending,
I of a street lamp and a firefly
nondescript and sterile,
blues and silvers that made up dreams
and a night filled encounter-certainty,
waiting
waiting
for a ghost ship and a swallow
that reads out the weather.
Will it rain tomorrow, tell me
will there be starlight and amber,
the settlement of dew?
And will there come in a vial or in an envelope
the dust that erased my footprint from her heart?

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

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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Important things

Other orbits beckon, I am sure,
other constellations you want to inhabit,
other stories to listen to,
futures to reflect on;
this is how people leave
and are left
this is how and why doors are shut,
and in these transformations and travels
sweet lies and known inevitables
those who came before, are absented,
this is true.

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

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Wednesday, 12 October 2011

At my door

There are some who might notice,
and some who might wonder
what's inside;
there are among us
the indifferent, the curious and bold.
they are those who strayed inside
some who stayed a while
and some that ran away.
Among these visitors
were those who stripped
my meager rooms
of things precious and inconsequential,
those who stamped immortality
with a word, a touch
a look
or a moment of shared breath,
and those who left no trace
of passing through.
And then there is a singularity that stops
walking without movement,
arrivals made
of steps taken in another direction;
words that move in the air
reconfiguring sentence
at the slightest breath of wind,
and I have asked myself,
'Who is she
that can with such grace
rob door, heart, sensibility,
longing, hurt and everything else
of all given meaning
and metaphorical extrapolation?'

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

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Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Requiem

(For Parami Kulatunga*)

I did not know you, General,
haven’t been where you’ve been,
haven’t seen what you’ve seen,
I walked this land on other feet,
its textures, its fruit-laden winds,
the songs authored by clash and respite
and accompanied by the crackle of burning grass,
sad, haunting voids filled with conversation
gunshot and scream,
its immeasurable patience
the snapping of command
and the tenderness
of a mobile defense line dripping wistful dreams:
these things I’ve recorded, but in a different language.
I did not know you, General,
not in the way our land made friends
made peace with you,
not in the clasping of hand
and the resolute embrace of breast against breast
as such you’ve probably known.
I have not known the weight
of certain bloods,
the length and breadth of your solitude
the expression of a soldier as death approached.
When you laughed, General,
was it to hide the heart’s intimate affair with brutality
or to say that life was softer than fear
and therefore a worthwhile proposition,
a justification to celebrate with smile
even as it was made of tear?
I did not know you, General,
But I will recognize your breath
and blood
when elemental movement causes certain intersections
of moment with word
horror with love, friend with stranger, friend with enemy.
And when these juxtapositions beyond transcription
post me missives about a land that gets tilled
about lovers who can still kiss
politicians who can continue to play the games they play
mendicants who seem to receive
though the giver knows not of their receipt,
about chess squares and square cuts,
about papers that are published
and features that ought to as well,
let me assure you, General,
you shall not go unreceived.
You see, I never knew you, General,
but in your refusal to leave,
I’ve found that this land is worth residence
and that residence is a child,
made of broken skin and sutured hope,
it is a song that will be played, General,
not because you’ve chosen another universe
but simply because you’ve walked this one
and because upon the dust you disturbed
and the dust you left untouched
there is a singular title, a gravestone legend:
Unvanquished.

*Lieutenant General Parami Kulatunga, then Deputy Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army and its third hightest ranking officer died in an LTTE bomb attack on June 26, 2006.  This poem was published in The Nation as part of a tribute to the well-loved and gallant soldier.

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

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Monday, 10 October 2011

Sari

Earth colours.
they tell me of paths
and footprints
and a time that will never come again.
they tell me how we
dissolved
into you and I.
They tell me
of a blessing
and a curse
and how this strange conjugation
yielded a moment
so eminently erasable.
[From my collection 'Threads', shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2007]

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Sunday, 9 October 2011

For Dase*

It has been ten years now,
almost,
and I had thought that time's dependable eraser
had done its work,
had filtered out the insufferable,
gathered manageable sorrows,
arranged according to size and temper,
assigned slots,
and banished forever the tear and sigh.
But Dase,
You came to me this autumn night
flying from an Andean landscape,
you fell like a broken leaf soaked in a rainbow.
and I find myself bathed in recall
clothed with history's immemorial questions.
Tell me:
tell me about that terrible moment.
Were there thoughts of aspirations
unfulfilled and poverty stricken,
slogans poorly chosen?
Did the could-have-been hurt more
than the lacerations of capture, detention and torture?
Did the wind that bandaged your every wound
arrive with mother's-milk fragrance?
Tell me Dase about that terrible moment
when you robbed your torturer of his pleasure.
That last sigh you gifted the world,
where did it find residence?
Did it settle in the leaves of that unhappy tree
where your limbs were turned into branch
your skin into bark?
Did it travel on the sorrowful gaze
of your beautiful eyes,
this final giving of salute
made of resignation or resolve?
Your bits and pieces, Dase,
they have travelled far,
all the way from long ago and memory
along an unwrapped bandage
and in a teardrop.
Tell me all there is to tell and more,
for I cannot gather you in my arms again.

* Dassanayake, student leader at Peradeniya (1984-89), reportedly drawn and quartered, literally, somewhere in Kandy, end 1989.

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