Saturday, 30 November 2013

The building materials of birds and beasts

Word twigs and mental notes
love letters and innuendo
discarded lines from forgotten songs
run-on lines and lost punctuation
a bit of sunshine
a moonbeam or two
pages from a favorite book
dog-eared days 
the smile of a stranger
and inevitable misinterpretation
the building blocks
of our sanities 
feathering of certainty
the strengths of fragility:
our lives and our eternities
woven in ignorance 
and the arrogance of knowing --
still pretty
still made for a music score.

[Inspired by the photography of Rukshan Abeywansha]

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Prabuddha XVI

[This is the sixteenth 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, V, VI , VII, VIII,  IX, X , XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV can be found in]  

auspicious hour

witness to the birthing

of a thousand Buddhas

a thousand arrived

men and women

this morning

to the bus stop

ready to battle,

men and women

of run and jump

cut and chop

kindling of fires

the haste of toilet

the rush of shave


and into work clothes

then brisk walk or sprint.

Those outside, to get in

those inside, to get a seat

those seated, to a corner seat



and if obtain gain

are happy.

My seat, my car

for a moment

the ego rides along;

and if overtaken

is disturbed


Competing and struggling; squashed but emerging

swaying and swaying; at times ramrod straight, still

with joke and banter, smile and guffaw

onward to Colombo chug-chugging by train.

If there was the tiniest space

would turn a somersault and dance

would sing a theme song of a movie

and in the contortion of arm and leg

ask for a cent

or two

children of four or five.

There are men

Youth betrayed by the here and there

and thinness of facial hair

pale faced and eyes

looking up in their vacancy

educated and knowing

and seeking a job.

And by their side

young women

pale-faced too

helplessness in their eyes

no spark, no joy.

The older notice the dance

they smile and dig in purse or wallet

find a coin or too

toss into tin

wishing for themselves

all material comforts

in heaven and earth

and at the end

the bliss of enlightenment.

She came to him then

the little girl panting

at dance-end stretching

the lid of a tin –

destined to walk

on some yet unknown street

at an evening hour –

and he,

after a furtive glance

to note who noted and who did not

he placed upon it

a shining coin

a single singular rupee;

had anyone seen

it might be thought,

‘One entire rupee – what an idiot!’

She would delight

and joy would spill from lip and eye

in the natural overflow

precipitated by the unexpected;

she turned away

hand outstretched

to new benefactor

as though she had nothing noticed.

Disappointment invaded

followed by a dilemma.

Why did I expect

response that would delight?

The offered rupee,

who was it to delight,

she or I?

Prabuddha XV

This is the fifteenth 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, V, VI , VII, VIII,  IX, X , XI, XII, XIII and XIV can be found in

And by the green stretch of paddy
quiet at the foot of the mountain
a humble hut
skirted by a stream
that polishes and polishes
the black rocks that line.

The hills
they dissolve with
and disappear into
the white, white mists
float into the skies
clearing the pathways to Nirvana.

And the trees
still and silent
clothed in moonlight’s white
lie in bliss of comprehension.

The stream gurgles along
now breaking in sobs
now in side-ripping mirth. 

Gently falls the dew
in infrequent droplet cold,
and then he heard
as though in a dream
piercing the thick layers of mist
the music of his childhood
when his flute he played.

And through it all
there arose
from a slumber of twenty years
or was it thirty (?)
the singular wearied countenance,
that of his mother. 

Resplendent in the sorrow sighs
released into the dawn-hearth
of fry and bake
crafted by the kneading
of trial and tribulation
that face of perspiration glow
was sister-face to this,
Prabuddha thought. 

Then came to mind another face
one encountered along harsh path
through foreboding mountains
as he left village and entered city
in another lifetime;
another sister, yes,
of this mother’s countenance:
Yashoda’s face.

And then she
who gifted love
when lost and alone
not knowing where to turn
gifted children
filled with courage
as essence of all these faces
one face

‘From lifetime to lifetime
we lived
you and I did, Arjuna!
I remember it all
though you may not.’[1]

‘Why not?
Why not Niranjala,
I do remember.
Are you still asleep Niranjala?
It’s already 4 o’clock.
Wake up! Wake up! Wake up Niranjala!
There is rice to cook
milk for the children
I can’t get late to work.’

I was fast asleep
stayed up late last night
went to bed around 1 o’clock.

‘The boy was ill
he had high fever
I didn’t wake you up,
You were so tired;
look, he’s still feverish;
he needs some medicine
at least today……
No! No!
You need not stay,
go to work
I will take him to the doctor!’

With these soft hands light the clay lamp
these hands that turn rice into flour,
powder into milk,
that make gruel
that knows suffering.
Give me light from eyes that know not sleep
so I can  show pathways that lead away
to all of you who know sorrow. 

[1] Bhagavad Gita