Saturday, 24 November 2012

Ode to ‘Somedays’

There are so many somedays
that have crept between other words
between innuendo and silence
sudden appearances
and long absences
so many somedays
for somethings
that if a day comes
'Here I am, tell me!"
I might pour it all out as tears
or just die.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

A heart-line song

So they made lines
and marked with sign
and underlined with red
for emphasis:
No no no no no no no!
They built walls on either side
used backhoes to make deep
forbidding trench
placed broken glass atop the wall
bred crocodiles to feed on those who strayed;
reinforced for good measure
with resolute steel
planted crosses for crucifixion
if need be
and passed stories of this and that
of terrible consequences.
But heart has no eyes
to read warning signs
no ear to hear objection
no tongue to protest
no fingers to test cut-glass prohibition
could not smell foul odors of repulsive dictate,
the heart could only love and love and love
and that's what it does,
as it always did
as it always will.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Prabuddha VI

This is the sixth part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera. Parts I, II, III, IV and V were published in

From there,
that classy vantage point
he could sweep gaze
he could capture
the world in miniature
a teeny weeny ant-sized universe
corrugated lives
box-wood living
and peeping through these
human forms
wasted and miserable
spawn and breeders of squalor
ragged and wretched
marked with gutter stench
meandering by drain and ditch.

It wafted this foul odor
from those unnamed sewers
and birth revulsion
made head turn away
moved gaze toward feast.

In the visitors’ room
the guests made merry,
the well nourished and oversized
tie-coated gentlemen
doubled-chinned, wide-waisted chairmen
of corporate and corporation
and lawyers too,
covering pate with hair strands
carefully taken from one side to the other
in a delicate crossing,
entrepreneurs too
decorated with political patronage
who even wear the national dress
and even lubricate election campaigns.

There were women there
hair all done
high on fashion
neatly pinned
thickened lips and pointed fingernails
eyes half opened in allurement
flesh spilling at the waist
fanning themselves
chin up glances
from half closed eyes
and all these vanities
staying for awhile
the fading ways of beauty.

Then there was youth,
young men and women
long, unkempt locks
falling around shoulders
unisexed in hairstyle and wristwatch  
big belts keeping up
tight pants with countless pockets
miniskirts and bellbottoms
carefree in appearance
but seemingly lost

And into their midst
floated Yasodha
a swan surely
that descends upon
and glides along the water.

Something changed right then
a different buzz went around the room
he felt small
and shy. 

He felt a dwarf in a Gulliverian world
a stranger on foreign soil.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Prabuddha Part V

This is the fifth part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha'

And thereafter he saw.
He saw the thousands
starve and sweat
to build mansions.

And thereafter he saw.
He saw the thousands
starve and sweat
to fill those same houses. 
And thereafter he saw.
He saw them fight
saw them compete with one another
for more power, higher office, bigger position.
He saw thereafter
all the invisibles around him

It was a dream mansion:
Yasodha’s house
with its white wall
steel gates
marbled floors
covered with thick red carpets,
finely crafted furniture
innumerable artifacts and ornaments
ornate chandeliers
from exotic lands
and when he saw these comforts
Prabuddha felt diminished,
the fairytale dream dissolved
it fell and shattered
on the hardened earth
of unforgiving noontime light.

‘If only I could be one of them!’
That was the beginning of another dream-tale.
‘I see now the distance, Yasodha,
the chasm between us;
all I have is my birthright of poverty
and nothing like this splendor you own,
do you understand,
I have nothing,
nothing like this!’

‘And yet I love you!’

And so he climbed;
up the stairs he went
with her
hand in hand
and his soul took flight
encased in shoes well-polished
firmly boxed
in shirt and trouser, tie and coat.

From high above he saw the city
the houses tall and short,
the wide avenues and narrow lanes
and the masses
scurrying along, hither and thither
running the races of their choice
he saw the tiny cars
stopped on either side
in shapes never imagined before,
and as he reached the top floor
there was a dint of pride:
‘I too am one of them!’

This translation has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera
[Parts I, II, III and IV were published in]  

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Beyond light and dark

So we light
one lamp after another
row upon row
and they send arrows
to dissect the dark
illuminate face
of lighter and lit
and the oil feeds
burns wick
and dies
and darkness recovers
traditional homeland
but in the aftermath
of festivity and fire
in the after-death of light
and the re-encroachment of night
nothing forbids
a re-ignition
a turning of symbol
an illumination
of the eternal verities
the true dimensions
of atman
and the negation of definitive line
and all other errors
light-quenched and lit.

[Inspired by the photography of Rukshan Abeywansha and published in the UNDO Section of 'The Nation']