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Thursday, 19 October 2017

In a certain valley….
















On either side of the river
from a long time ago 
two mountains rise
bound in love 

They cast gaze
on the other’s face
and nothing else
have they done

And yet now and then
from mountain eyes
tear drops roll
down to the river below


They burst out 
and as thin streams roll
and gather at the river,
this is apparent. 

[Translation of Ruwan Bandujeewa's "එක්තරා නිම්නයක..."]


එක්තරා නිම්නයක....


ගඟ දෙපැත්තේ
බොහෝ කල් සිට
ප්‍රේමයෙන් බැඳි
කඳු දෙකක් ඇත

උනුන් වත දෙස
බලා ඉනු මිස
මෙතෙක් කල් වෙන
වුනු දෙයක් නැත

නමුත් ඉඳ හිට
කඳු ඇසින් වට
කඳුළු කැට කැට
ගලා පහළට

සිහින් ඇළ දොළ
ලෙසින් පැන නැග
ගඟට එක්වෙනු
දකින්නට හැක ...

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Aerial Music
















Unheard, unsung
and yet not unmade,
there’s a timeless music score 
of wingtip, flight-path and synchronicity 
played to the accompaniment
of orchestral skies
the singular note of an oboe
rising above depravities 
the cardinal errors of acquired incapacity 
and sorrows embedded 
in earthy things.

[Inspired by the photography of Sajani Amarathunga]

Friday, 13 October 2017

Our Mother*






















She's taller now:
too tall to hold 
to cuddle too old; 
queen you were
and she princess
then as now, 
and you
are as you were
in your distance and proximity
words and words not said;
your children, all of them,
are safe
in a cradling that endures
the mortality of passing.

*On behalf of all her children

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The conspiracy of night


Life and light in synonymity:
one yields and is also made of the other
but involuntary glance
through random windows 
gives moon-wires 
bent by wind
and blushed by rain
conspiring with ardent trees
and pliant foliage.  
We can paint it
transliterate 
or just breathe it all
and tell our hearts,

“open now 
the beloved has arrived’

Monday, 25 September 2017

The most ancient love song

There are times
when I am visited
by flowers;
bouquets,
with a florist's tag:
deepest sympathies.
My voice is too weak to say,
'not yet,
although her heart has died for me,
mine has not, for her'

[From the collection 'Some texts are made of leaves']

Sunday, 20 August 2017

A ship without anchor

“For a canoe that comes to pick flowers 
to be with bullets riddled
in the middle of a reservoir
let license be granted to a lotus
among red petals a pistol to conceal.

“Instead of bringing forth separately
for common internment 
let us decree that the ocean 
must henceforth construct a plain
for a river another river to meet 
face to face.”

“Alright friend,
but tell me
of what use is the proximate sound of a lighthouse 

for a ship that has its anchor lost?” 


[translation of "නැංගුරම නැති නැවක්" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]


Saturday, 12 August 2017

The poet’s curse*

It must be an unwritten love
or a love without words
something between verse and verse 
a teasing ethereality 
an absence or a longed-for 
too precious for the vulgarity of form
or description;
yes, poets who write about love
may not have it
but are nevertheless loved —
for theirs is the language of belonging
not ownership,
in the feudalism of romance
they care not for deed
but tenuriality 
— even in passing —
is land enough for love.
This they know.  


*”It is a poet's curse to be able to write about love but not have it…”

Even the Menik Ganga peed*

Two hundred breasts
when by two divided, one hundred women
the feast was splendid indeed
even the Menik Ganga** fell incontinent upon its shores

Having removed a hundred jewelled girdles, brasiers, pearl necklaces and earrings 
The mango was cut, slice by slice, even as the Goddess Pattini residence held
Even Manamperi*** peeked out hearing the whistles and joyous cheers
Submerged was the Vedahiti Kanda with the yolk of peacock eggs

Two hundred smoldering eyes
when by two divided, one hundred women
the feast was splendid indeed
even the Menik Ganga** fell incontinent upon its shores




[translation of "මැණික් ගඟටත් ඉවුරේ චූ යයි" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]


*A politician threw a party to celebrate sexually abusing a hundred women — news item
** Literally, ‘River of Jewels’ which, for many Sri Lankans is the holiest river in the island, and which falls into the sea in the Southern Province, the ‘territory’ of the said politician

***Reference to Premawathi Manamperi, beauty queen of Kataragama, abducted, raped and killed by those tasked to put down an insurrection

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The love story

He kissed her forehead 
and felt the union of ice and lava 
sunflower and moonbeam;
he looked into her eyes
and within them 
unnamed oceans discovered;
he held her hand
and found salvation;
he whispered her name
again and again 
and willed his voice 
into a crazy orbit of her being
even as her ‘elusivity’ 
sidestepped love
tripped heart 
and birthed insanity;
and in that blessed intoxication
slumber collapsed into the arms of dreams.

She felt his lips on forehead
and thereafter of bindi had no need;
felt his eyes on her eyes
gaze on eyelash
breath on lips 
and realized
the outshadowing of eyeshadow
blush that bested blush
and the exquisite gloss 
that paled lipstick;
she felt his hand on wrist
and felt decorated with bangles;
she heard his words wrap
in a sari of a thousand kites
and felt thoughts blur into a singular perfume;
and thus did she make of him
a jeweler, a cosmetician, designer 
and dream-catcher.

And then they were silent
she and he --
and in that stillness
they read the timeless poetry
of moments 

that obliterated time. 

Friday, 21 July 2017

Kundalakesi

Lifted in coiffered arrangement -- cloth wrapped tight
Princess who with red buneela petals the floor bedecked
Circled thrice in homage -- the bed where Sattuka lay
Kundalakesi of a machete's seven blows 

Grabs necklaces does Sattuka -- peddles weed does Sattuka
Law enforcement does visit the humble hut now and again
Princess who drew from Sattaka -- the whiplash sting
Flying to Welikada with a packet of rice armed 

Gamble he does -- brothels frequents too Sattaka
Princess who never complained until now
Who from the bed in consternation fell 
At the little girl's plaintive cry 'No, Thaatthe, No'

Circled thrice in homage -- the bed where Sattuka lay
Kundalakesi of a machete's seven blows 



[translation of "කුණ්ඩලකේසී " from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Friday, 14 July 2017

Prasanna


Like soft light
reflected from guitar strings
and heart-glass,
like long silence
between monosyllables,
a half smile from knowing eyes,
slow in so many ways
because the mind raced
or had a long time ago --
still life,
that's you:
quietness that delights
in moments that stay 
long after capture 
and the exit
of all conspirators.  


Pics by Sharni Jayawardena


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

“Love is never illicit!”

A midnight assertion 
took me to many yesterdays
the loving turning and re-turning of pages
the rolling of words on a mind-tip 
and an evening of finality,
that moment   
when Seeress asked and the Master replied
and where at the exhaustion of query
even after blessedness was acknowledged 
two questions had arrived and in arrival were answered:
“Was it I who spoke?  Was I not also a listener?”

I re-read the prophetic prescription
the nutshell version 
of the book “All about love”
and, in the manner of our days,
pressed ‘ctrl F’;
I called for “illicit”
and then 
in seerish presumption
from that unyielding text requested,
“And what of the licit, Master?”

There arose 
from the flame-tip
of an oil lamp
lit in a long forgotten temple 
the softest silence
and which, bathed 
in timeless luminosity 
decreed: 
‘transliterate!”

And so in crippled tongue
this I am compelled to say:

It is no sin 
to name the undefined 
but we desist
on account of vulgarity;
the beloved is nameless
and therefore variously named;
the question of propriety
is a verse on moonlight
so why write about luminosity 
when to let it clothe 
is verse enough? 

Oh! Beloved!
I’ve digressed
so let me 
to the country of love
return.







Thursday, 30 March 2017

The architecture of poetry

A word
or maybe just random letters
these are the gifts unintended 
but there is a filing instrument 
again a gift unintended
yes hurt 
can chip away
smooth over sharp edge 
cut clean
and hand over to heart
these raw materials 
with which
by and by
splendid pavilions I make
for who knows whom
if so desired to stay awhile 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Location

Rise, roll and crash
then run 
touch feet
worship-like
and run back
laughing-like

rise, roll and crash
in endless repeat

it’s not the you 
of first arrival
and it’s not someone else
no

the evening post exclaims: 
waiting for things that never arrived
waiting for things that might come

sifting grains 
and shifting blues 

are splendid places 

for feet to grow old

in the brine of being

Monday, 6 March 2017

Gossamer Girl

There's light thieving in
street light, home-light and moon;
it's quiet here and cool
but I wish it would rain
blend-light further blurred
is guest, not thief

There's a feast downstairs
a quiet consumption
of demand and request
a chewing out with burst
and a resolution with smile

You in your infinities
I in my dust-speck
We in familiarity 

Gossamer of a kind 

Friday, 24 February 2017

A joy and a pleasure

Not to rally round 
for yet another scarecrow to make
but the the threshing floor 
of its birth to fertilize 
a joy and pleasure
surely for the straw




[translation of "සැපකි - සතුටකි " from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Faces

The river's face and mine
after a long, long time did meet

The river 
into my face peered 
scratched head with fingertips
and a sign of recognition sought,
I felt

Beloved,
having seen us
not separately
but together
a moment more tarried
took a turn and hid
the river did






[translation of "මුහුණු" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Friday, 17 February 2017

A sandesaya to Gamini Fonseka

Tell us of the roles you play
the scripts that come alive
as you walk and walk,
speak and say nothing,
in your gaze and gesture,
out there in those other locations
among the other heroes
supporting casts
props and equipment.
Tell us about that life,
the parameters
within which they capture
moment and a love note
a kiss and an arrow;
the contortions of the human condition
the comedy, tragedy and other undefined things.
Tell us about the play of power,
of dignity and arrogance
the slippages
between ‘possible’ and ‘impossible’,
loose words, and
silence that draws from the eternal verities.
Tell us about the heroines,
the casuals,
the portraits shattered with gunfire
the images that were not bullet-proof
but which survived.
Tell us,
in this land beyond recall,
how tall you are,
how commanding;
give us the dimensions
of profile and bearing.
Do you, for example,
hold the screen in a clenched fist
or in your determined eyes,
or have you disappeared
in the burning black-white frame
of your own exhalations
or crushed like the cigarette-ends
you ground out
to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’
as per script
or out of it,
as was your way?

[first published in 'The Nation' in October 2006, a few days after his death]

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Earthworms

“O Father
why do we not go
for the Ploughing Festival?
Even the king today
will step into the paddy field..
should we not this silence break
and inform them all
how we made fertile this soil
hidden in the bowels of the earth?”


“Little one,
the blade of the mammoty
must into the dark mud cut
and of those who fertilized
and those who did not
is quite unconcerned —
so dig deeper into the dark mud
for son,
it is inadvisable 
to crawl 
to surface openness”


[translation of "ගැඩවිල්ලු" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The sun has another reservoir emptied

Flowers from resplendent waters picked
fish and cormorants thereafter banished 
the sun this time around had emptied 
and by the wayside a reservoir laid

Upon a cheek with dismal silt marked 
a scar from a brick-maker's cut
a decaying skull 
the sign of a long dead love

There's no one, none at all
blue-clad waves to caress
just a heart lacerated 
by bottles of pest-killing poisons

Flowers from resplendent waters picked
fish and cormorants thereafter banished 
the sun this time around had emptied 
and by the wayside a reservoir laid

The sun it's eyes roll this way and that
wondering if there may come by 
an inquirer who may survey 
and the reservoir's story obtains ere the rain clouds arrive.


[translation of "ඉර මෙවර තවත් වැවක් හිස්කර" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]


Friday, 10 February 2017

It must be so

For the bearing of sweet fruit
upon fraternal canopies
all the poisons mixed in soil
perhaps the niyangala roots did sip

[translation of "එහෙම වෙන්නැති" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Speechless crows

Even just now
in the Pettah
there are crow eggs
in Jam, Bo and Kottamba trees
bursting

when the young come out
are crows with response ready  
to questions they will surely ask?

Mother takes broom in beak
sets out at dawn
sweeps the roads
large compounds
and vast gardens
but however much she strives
strangely do the cruel leaves
descend on the morrow

tomorrow too 
she'll take flight
'Mother, why can't we
just go somewhere
to a small garden
of our own?"

On Malwatte Street
Father sells necklaces and rings
stainless steel
thorn-cut wings 
break off and fly
throughout the day
his soles swell come evening
as we watch
why can't we too
be like the golden oriole 
like the blue-breasted dove?

Even just now
in the Pettah
there are crow eggs
in Jam, Bo and Kottamba trees
bursting

as for the questions they will ask
are parent-crows equipped 
with ready response?

[translation of "කපුටන්ට කෝ උත්තර?" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Friday, 3 February 2017

Silk Road

In neither East nor West
of a silk-clad silk-worm 
that came along the Silk Road
there's no mention,
but why?

At the bottom of boiling pots of water
dead young worms disintegrate
the screams of the dying at scorching 
as splendid silk does rise

An orphaned baby worm
never having dreamt of silk
among the dark mulberry bushes
curls up against the cold

[translation of "සේද මාවත" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Aukana replica on Bauddhaloka Mawatha

In these regions resides not
an errant prince 
who his father buries alive
for refusing to reveal 
where the royal riches were kept
no, just kings who calls on sons
divides wealth as fit

In that vast conference hall
where the kala wewa ought to have been
international book fairs - exhibitions and sales - beautiful dances
passionate debates among ancient seers
of philosophies numbering sixty two
theatre - skincare — cookery demonstrations
like the five blossoms sway

Every now and then arrives someone looking for true image within a replica
tarries a moment or two seeking to detect in replica an error
someone who hasn’t seen original is by replica pleased

original and replica in identical pose remain

[Translation of Ruwan Bandujeewa's poem "බෞද්ධාලෝක මාවතේ අවුකන අනුරුව" in 'මීළඟ මීවිත' (The Next Wine)]

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Residual Hills

Filling eyes with a gaze
strolling across the plains
and in solitude murmuring
are residual hills

of clouds unconcerned 



[translation of "ශේෂ කඳු" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Friday, 27 January 2017

In the darkness

The danger spots to point
‘ere the clan could perish
a firefly voluntarily 
into a cobweb flew

The breeze an arm stretched out
to a rose bush landed a blow
‘twas the dew and not flower
that was thrown first and first to fall

The lovely dew-laden idda
milk-white in morning visitation
to the cemetery delivered,

a honey-bird to rest retired


[translation of "අන්ධකාරයේදී" from the collection "මීළඟ මීවිත" (The next wine) by Ruwan Bandujeewa]

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Stoppage

Paper boats on after-rain water
criss-cross of ekel-brush on dust canvas
a half-opened window 
open unto full-truths of silence
lives passed by in click-capture 
solitudes made for paper-cuts and word-letting 
a slow barefoot January stopped
in mid-stream or water’s edge

it does not matter.