Friday, 11 September 2015


Street light and blinds
in nocturnal conspiracy
I precious-breathed
her ambered countenance
to moonlight dreamery;
she was silent
my sleeping beauty
and didn't breathe a word
but took me
to the beginning
of love's unteachabilities
and to the end
of the endlessness
of a fingerless grasp
that's her love.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Prabuddha XXIV

Straight to the tavern he went. =
‘Shhhh!  Waiter!  Two drams!’
and a packet of Bristols.’

There’s intermittent rain outside
and he felt sad.
But was it sorrow that he felt?
He could not say.
The murmur of the rain
articulated his thoughts
he felt
but in another tongue.

Trooped in revelers
from the carnival
and drank their fill
to be rid of the great insanity.

Members of Parliament
ministers and the Government
drew their ire
tables were turned into drums
as they sang
slept some dreaming happy dreams
opened eyes at times to weep.

The cacophony grew in the tavern
more intense too was the rain
and now nothing was clear
everyone together
spoke the truth
and for this reasons
everything was obscure.  

It was past midnight
when Prabuddha reached the station.

‘Great man destined to become Buddha
with hands thrust deep into a dustbin
stirring up polytene, plantain leaves and waste paper
what truth dost thou seek?’

‘I seeketh a bit of rice
a crust of bread and fish-bone
to sustain today
the great man
to become Buddha
so destined!’

Heard a cuckoo call
turned to look
and what did I see? 
only the faded moon
in the early morning sky.

There were beggars in the verandah 
under the long roof
of the Fort Railway Station
close to and facing the walls
stretched out on old newspapers
curled up in rags 
hand thrust under head as pillow.

One of them got up
hearing Prabuddha’s step.

Keen eyes, thin fingered hands
wrinkled cheeks and brow
long bodies
white-hair on his chest
the frayed rags that wrapped him
were in places torn
and brown in color.
white beard in curl and knots
and his locks were made of grace
and countenance calm.

‘Nidukaanani, One Without Sorrow, tell:
Who are you?  
Are you one attained enlightenment?
When could I obtain 
a composure and contentment 
such as yours?’

The beggar smiled
his smiles distilled from moonlight.

Those who speak are ignorant
those who know, are silent 
and you of these qualities
are a Pacceka Buddha

The beggar smiled
as though endorsing 
in the language of silence.  

He spoke nought
but spoke all
felt Prabuddha.

He asked like a mendicant, sure
but his was in fact an offering
Prabuddha felt.  

And thus did the two recognize
and understood one another.

‘If only I too
could with him
take to the streets
there could be no greater joy,’
Prabuddha thought.

But the pure mind so much like a mirror 
could capture not any of this
and yet neither did it reject.
Took and yet did not keep.

The mind is of singular focus
when craving a song or image;
as such times it is pure
Lust then entwines with art  
and yet if art was elevated somewhat
in that degree does diminish lust.

Is not heightened appreciation a vessel
a craft that transports to the eternal verities? 

The cat purrs between feet
in the bliss of warmth
Prabuddha sleeps 
his feel unmoved,
ignoring discomfiture 
does not change position
fearing the cat
in fear may flee.  

The art lover
empowered to create 
empowered to feel 
will not suffer
art that is not soft,
is only touched
by art of the highest realm
and when this quality 
to the maximum is honed
he lets go
both creation and its appreciation.

‘Art is a silly, childish thing,
he then feels.
Art is a silly, childish thing,
and so is it abandoned.  

Thereafter he is but a vehicle of the aesthetic 
a treasure trove of the grandiose compassionate,
it is the ultimate yield of art

and it is a long journey.  

poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera. 


Mornings Break

Early mornings have chosen paths
they begin the nowheres of memory
sweep across flood plains
ignore tree and creature
impatient for night-end
but pause to coil around questions
left-behind footprints
all over your doubts
gather like a pickpocket
and take ghost streets known to none but me
and deliver you
a baby i am terrified to touch
for fear of crumbling
in the parchment-break
of too much love.

Prabuddha XXIII

Rani soap fragranced
tap-water showered
deep red lipstick
fingernails and toenails reddened too
thickly powdered cheeks
bright and vividly colored sari
wrapped around her
out on to the lonely street
at dusk she ventures.

Where to, sister, pray tell!

‘Do you not see the multitude
thronging towards the carnival
following them am I
to gift as alms of a kind my flesh.
No, not so I too will attain enlightenment 
as per the doctrine of the paramitas,
but only to pray for a meal tomorrow
for the children starve
and the man is consumptive 
to them relief must I bring.’

Amma bud vaeva!

[Mother, may you attain Buddhahood!]

There were young men
long-haired and bearded 
with rich shirts tucked into pants
held by thick leather belts
arm in arm with girls
as young as she
into whose ears they poured
the sweet nothings of love.

Reclining in soft comfortable seats
in the glow of bulbs
filtered through multiplicity of color
with puckered lips
young and fresh
on the edge of a glass
or else from the bottle straight
through thin paper straws
they sucked in love.

It’s a riot of sound
the carnival grounds
runs round 
the merry-go-round  
heads and heads
they are everywhere.

They weren’t sad
not one of them
laughing joyously were they
danced into the grounds
gathered and sang
grotesquely masked
and yet
all gods, all divine
at one, at some moment in time
that they were,
all bodhisatvas 
marked for Sammaa Sambuddhahood.

The iron voice blurted 
cutting through laughter and cheers 
‘Hey, come one, come all,
let’s dance, let’s sing
for the time it is a-passing!” 

It was his voice
cut into a record
that he heard
aeons later
mind broken by anger.

Disenchanted he still was
when he left the carnival.
among the bushes dark he saw
a darkened couple,
and first glance said
two springs of love
gushing love’s sweetest lines.

‘No, Ranjani, no!
Please don’t cry.  
You’ll never understand
however many times I explain.
How can I marry you?
You would complain one day
you would say I ruined your life!’

He stood still
their words and sighs
brushing the ears of his heart
and cutting through 
laughter and cheers
the loudspeaker’s cacophony
their voices surfaced:

‘All property they pawned
my parents did,
just to educate me
and now thanks to me
they wallow in misery.’

‘Let us drink poison,
both of us,

And then he heard 
many, many voices
a thousand complaints
from a thousand mouths 
he heard
from all all over
the carnival grounds. 

‘My chest get tight
it does, Sir, at night.
I can't breathe then
I fear then 
that death is upon me.
And yet the doctor 
they say there’s nothing wrong
with me!’

‘I will hang myself
I will jump into a well
he was so different then
but now
such a cruel man he is!’

‘Look here boss,
sure, I steal,
I am a pickpocket.
There’s no joy
don’t get me wrong.’

‘Good sir, listen to my story!
My eldest daughter
she ran away
eloped with a vagrant
did she!’

‘Failed again,
but had I passed
it would have been so good
the promotion would be mine!’

‘I have to pay my rates
forty thousand this year
and once that’s done
I’d be finished!’

All these laments
from all corners of the carnival 
echoed like one single 
inalienable chorus
in his ears
and yet
blended into that chorus
was but a singular line:
‘let’s dance, let’s sing
for the time it is a-passing!’ 

Pitiful is life
empty and fruitless
devoid of meaning
‘Konu haaso kim aanando’ 

What laughter, what joy? [when all is burning]

*This is the twenty third part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's classic narrative poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera.