Friday, 25 May 2012

Of hearts, dead and alive

City has pulse,
a heart and heartbeat,
it breathes, we are told,
this diurnal of the machine-buzz
we inhabit,
the colour code creature
red, amber and green,
in at the school gate at 7.30
out at 2.00,
, sign-out of work.
But city-heart
of do-this-but-not-that
is not heart enough:
regularity and regularing, you see
are fragrant-free.
Rebel heartbeat now,
made of bleeding
made for perfuming,
breaks rules,
It is good, they say
for breathing,
for breath-taking
for breathlessness.

[From the collection 'Some texts are made of leaves,' shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2011]

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Ode to belated birthdays

(for Kshanika)

They come around,
and like death
can be counted on,
one day of the year
for birthday wishes
and that's good,
but belated birthday wishes
they are all-season days
down-days and up-days
and inconsequential ones too,
sad ones and bad ones
great and unforgettable ones too,
belated birthdays -
they are life's most un-utilized wish-days,
and i am happy that they exist
364 days every year
and 365 each leap year.

[From the collection 'Some texts are made of leaves,' shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2011] 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

When heroes fall, mothers die

First the body-transformations,
sickness of the morning
the palpable evidence of belly filling,
then the movement of life within
a young mother’s excitement at life-miracle,
the dola-duk and preparations for arrival
labour pains and birthing,
nurturing and loving,
hope and exasperation,
pride and fall and pride again,
but not once in the up-down of bringing-up
is death envisaged
for young are not supposed to pre-decease
and for these mothers
as they trace name on mirror-wall
nothing comes back
except reflection of finger
memories of cradling
and an absence
no womb can ever contain
or entertain
for child is child.
child is live-child
or not at all.

[Inspired by a photograph by Wathsala Wijayasinghe of mothers tracing at a war memorial the names of sons fallen in battle]

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Now is another name
for tomorrow
it’s made of ‘yes’
a ‘yes’ of two million voices
a ‘no’ to yesterday,
and yes, a ‘maybe’ for some,
but a ‘yes’ of smile and resolve
of doing and doable
doing the not-done-for-years,
of prayers that may get answered
earth divested of grief
or containing sufferability in volume,
but pregnant
with yearned for harvests
of road, hospital and school
of childhood
and night skies
that will not collapse
on roof, road and dream ,
where politician lies
but does not kill
where there is grin,
not grimace,
a ‘yes’ said with caution, yes,
but not to please;
‘Now’ is another name
another word forbidden by way,
made possible by war-end:
ours to keep,
ours to squander.

Pic by Pushpakumara Matugama

Monday, 21 May 2012


Yesterday was blood-made
a weary endlessness
of waiting and waiting,
barricades and wanting,
fear and exasperation
bandaged humanity
wandering from check-point
to check-point,
helplessness to give up,
government to government
and the war raged on
with assertion and disavowal;
yesterday was bullet-made
dusted with gunpowder
and enveloped in smoke;
yesterday is forgettable
but unforgotten,
for wreckage ruptured
memory and livability
and a nation gasped
from breath to breath

[Also published in 'The Nation', UNDO Section, May 20, 2012]