[in the house of my father]

the burning he said started within
and I didn’t understand
but saw my own flames grow, till
asked he said, finally
love was to blame

I saw then the smell
of old cotton, worn now to threadbare
emotions, spent to realise
that it was not easy
to disengage

Now the sight of him
a frail wisp of white animated
by star gaze
a temple’s cadence apart
from my own karma
voicing words
retold anew, perhaps softer.

this house is familiar again
stripped bare of the fiction
necessary
for a war at bay
sarong folds now relaxed
too weak to hold, too strong to care
again

here, now,
calculating time and space left
to see what a world
come next
after this blood, after his blood,
is to smile
again

books now ageing too
first caressed and given
to no mirror, no shade, no one
Like himself

And yet, this familiar punkah knows
better storytelling
refracting reflections, this light now
together we pass
casts shadows
though not ahead.

Imagining peace

A pause
Quiet footfall of zephyr
At this base of white
evening lines come in a quiet
pāli hush.

Eyes open, undulating stones warm the ancients
who see
light meditations in
a chiaroscuro of hope.

Peace comes easy here, for now,
after uneasy undercurrents have shifted
white and saffron interplay.

To imagine peace, what memory chains
to escape crimson strokes
and see inside out on silhouette tracings
What we really are.

To imagine a time when a tiny hand in mine,
her smell, a father’s cooking, a mother’s embrace,
the lightest brush of skin
breath of one’s nape
tongue flicks of desire.

Our ordered lives, this order of life,
to imagine as different requires
no accident, no hero. No patriot
commands or paltry gods.
No enfilade must disturb, no cerise cuts
must mar peace anew.

Then.

Imagine, to imagine peace!
Would it be any different, really? Would we be, any different?
wounds erased, sounds faded
Leave now, yet remember this hope, this moment,
this imagined peace and its warm embrace
against looming shadows
at rest.

[Written for Saskia Fernando Gallery exhibit at the Colombo Art Biennale, 10 – 14 September 2009]

My Rishi

The flames lick,
Longing pricks
Tenterhooks of love.

But they burn too deep.

Smile, look, the mind’s fertile touch.
But to grasp, to reach is everything
To the devil within that teases
With a smile, a flick, a glance
A touch, electrifying.

But I yearn too deep.

Something Sri Lankan at core
That laugh delicate
And a passing breath, caught mid-air
By desire to take root.

Should I presume that much?

Imagined moments hiding
What cannot, what must not.

A tender caress of air then
And the faint scent lingers.

But I love too much.

Liverpool to Hull

Strange creatures these feathered feet on green meadows
Trundling along with me in a cadence of worn by time
Tracks leading to a journey of cherry blossoms and shadows cast
By a quick pop in the ear, in between the Sun’s ascendant power.

The same motion in a hundred million seconds
The instant fields in a passing green melting to rolling hills
Undulating we slow but why? The reflection smiles back, as it has
For so many questions before
In this bracken of excited flirtations with a virgin country.

The Kon-Doc-Tor it seems is quite affable, tuning the chords of each passenger
Greetings stranger and welcome, but have you a ticket?
Yes, say I, mildly fearful, for tickets to this land are conditional
On the unfamiliar and the unproven
As we part, a smile departs.

Then the chimney’s pout, and the spires remind of God and his country
With the rhododendron drone in my ears, purple by sunlight brown by coal
As the junction boxes signal the past, future in a rappers stance,
Rails akimbo, we sway this way, then that to the lithe poles
A music, yellow chorus and a corrugated conductor,
Now beckon me to come.

Desha-drohi

Hurrah! The victories won cast shadows in the dusk,
Falling through words dissent dies.
And we are alone.

Hurrah! The heroes come home as we die,
Cries of infants rail against hope while words of supine analytics
Adorn the news.

Statistically speaking, a majority supports this victory,
59.5% they say give or take a limb or two.
The girders of information support only decay.

The rot is necessary, sacrifice everything for our future
Including our future.
The riot was unnecessary, sacrificing support for another voice
That was our future.

The blots increase, black on white with red interspersed,
Carbon copies of bodies and dreams
Now write from graves.

The marble words from grassy mounds, a faint scent of memory’s perfume,
The mist of a vague life, for a moment heard amidst the fire
When all else is gone and wasted.

Shuffle to the palace, quickly now and in line
No scuffles, for there is order now in a new reign
Of pawns and queens
Who defeated us all.

Note: Desha-drohi means traitor in Sinhala. Read a related article here.

Life at the Pola

Corrugated iron clad shards cuts deep veins
The baby sighed and said
As fragments of its words, scattered
Plaster on the wall shattered
And time still ran.

Deep, unspeakable love
Momentary haze, a glint radiates
The smile.

The red papaya is best eaten before tomorrow
Vendors thronged to see to her, knowing
The unripe fruit would last longer
Than unborn
Desire.

I will kill today she said within
Love has little measure of sanity
And even less room for compassion

Lie.

Still.

Gently, carefully, lovingly cried the fresh skin
As it entered outside
Seeing warm sinews of earth and fire
Melting into a ball
Of love.

They say the air ripples through the hair
Softly at first
Then it sucks you
Instantly attractive, insatiable
A thousand hands flying, groping, reaching
Limbs to disconnect
Life.

Her soul, fresh
Was sold at Rs. 10 a kilo

A bargain
I am told.

Night #1

Night #1

Dot the darkness
Shadows alight
Wet moonlight dribbles
Like a harlot’s whispers
A ribcage of delight.

Outside splash
A hue of green marks
Where no one ventures
For the fear is in the light
While our shadows lurk beneath

A cricket cadence beckons
This night
Young, wet, satiated
Clamouring to say
Enough

So we are caged
Thoughts alone unbound
Finger to finger
Crossing their paths
Until silence
Holds

Us all.