Saturday, September 29, 2012

For Janaka Ekanayaka and Sisitha Priyankara

There were two minutes of heavy silence
among ten thousand tired people
Yesterday at Hyde Park.
The music and the speeches, the chanting and the slogans.

Only the sound of the crows
searching for scraps
In the city’s humid afternoon slashed the air, thick with a thousand complex

Sweat soaked into our black arm bands and then dripped onto
The soil into which you both will go: The land you struggled in
Will take you back to keep you safe
But safe is not a place you chose.

You wore no uniform, carried no gun
So you will not go down in history as heroes
In records kept by the powerful and the greedy.
There won’t be bright statues of you
Built in the town centres
No hypocrites will visit you next year
With cameras in tow
No crows will shit on you.
But you were armed, remember?
Courage, strength, fearlessness
So hard to disarm
So difficult to combat with water cannons and tear gas.
What I am trying to say is this:
You will shine brighter than
Any medal you might have worn.
And our memory of you will  never rust
 in the rain of forgetfulness
or in the years of silence.

(Janaka Ekanayaka and Sisitha Priyankara were two very vocal and powerfully active members of a student movement called the Inter University Students Federation currently on a campaign to restore dysfunctional universities in the country back to normalcy, to restore the freedom of students and academics, to depoliticize and de militarize higher education and to compel the government of sri lanka to spend more on state education. They were killed in a road accident two days ago. The IUSF says it has cause to believe their deaths were not accidental)

Monday, August 20, 2012


so there was this
dream i had last night
that i was lost in a labyrinth
and was trying to find you
amid a web of walls that
and because i couldn’t find
i kept palm-prints on
smooth white surfaces
which recorded them in blood
so i would not search
again and again
for you behind

the same old walls
but the palm prints disappeared
seconds after
they appeared
quickly, like the ending of dreams

so there was no ending
to my search for you
and no beginning
to my finding you.

(From Stitch Your Eyelids Shut)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Not my words

What you will remember
long after
I have vanished
from the margins of your

life is
not my words
fragile as flowers
under a dancer’s feet

not my thoughts
that floated bubble-like
through the air
and sometimes met yours

But what you felt for me
for one moment
in time
that  intense
hot, razor-sharp

as true
and as fleeting
as a new-born’s cry.

From nothing prepares you 2007, 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012


At a diplomatic gathering
an ambassador’s wife
smiles sweetly
as I’m introduced as a poet

(a term I’ll always wear
like a size 14 dress
on my size 8 frame)

I smile back
hoping I can talk about the weather
the cricket world cup final
which we might win
or the war
which no one will

but her next question’s one of
mild surprise
“you write in English?”
and my smile turns
for a reason that can’t find its voice
in poetry or prose
so I nod a diplomatic yes
and grab a drink from
a passing tray.

(April, 2007) - From Stitch Your Eyelids Shut

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Year 2008

In the early hours
of a new year
bursts of firecrackers
cold December air
the smell of gunpowder
and renewed hope
rose high
sound couldn’t quite separate
fake fire from real
as a man lay dead
from a bullet to the chest
at a kovil in Colombo

Where he was
praying for peace.

(From Stitch your Eyelids Shut Colombo, Akna: 2010)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Meeting in South London

That morning I met you
at the underground station
was a freezing December day
but your smile was warm
and the three months
we had spent apart
melted like
the frost at my feet.

But by January it had snowed
and the new year had brought with it
new possibilities
for you

On the day I had to leave
we walked beside that
frozen lake
In your eyes I saw
that the end had already begun
Even as lengthening shadows
signal the end of a day
and falling leaves
sing of summers end

Still, there were tears in you.

so I took your hand
told you gently
“It will be a long time
before this place
and my heart
see the sun again….”

(From nothing prepares you, Colombo: Zeus, 2007; second edition forthcoming 2012, Colombo: Akna: publishers)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Search Engine

I wasn’t searching for you
Or anyone
I had long since
Unfound  love.
Until I found you
And  you became indispensable
Like Google.
and You tube
those that leave us wondering
How we had lived before.
But unlike the search engines
Or even Wiki
You couldn't stay long

So I guess I better get used
to the dictionary.

The yellow pages too
Might just  have to do.

(February 2012)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kolkata - 2

Kolkota, March 2012

On the street
In Kolkata
The busescarslorriestruckscowstractorsminivans
Compete for space
Diagonally head on side by side
And the heat and dust
Choke you
Drivers curse at pedestrians and 
vehicles glare at each other
and you journey on
In spite of.

A small fish falls from an open truck
Full of still-live fish
On to the hot tarred road

From a kind of frying pan
To a kind of fire

And for a moment the serious faces
Scrunched up in the struggle for space
Relax, laugh,
Point at the strange small piece of life
Still trying  to live
In spite of.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kolkata -1

Swaying  ratsnakes mate
Two dancers creating life
On the dying grass

Sunday, May 6, 2012


(Translation of Liyanage Amarakeerthi's poem ඇයි මේ from his collection එකමත් එක පිටරටක with apologies to the author for the shortcomings)
I understand,
Oh Earth
that I offended the river
the day we voted for that villain
In fact I thought you would be
when we voted for that
capitalist scoundrel
who broke the land into tiny bits
and sold it

I knew, almost instinctively,
that things would not be good the day
we voted for that crook who turned paddy fields
into real estate

I felt it, I felt it, believe me, mother
I felt it even in the wind, that the
trees were grieving
the day we voted for that
loser who destroyed
the forests for timber
Oh mother, I know
but what I cannot understand is
why you drowned our little hut
in the swirling waters of your rage
We only voted for those liars
because we were afraid
they would abduct our son
do unspeakable things
to our daughter.

Why, oh why did you crash into
the hill screaming and vengeful
and sweep away my children
while I was away toiling
so I could feed them?

And why did you spare me
is it so I could bear witness
and tear out my eyes?
Didn't you know that those two,
my little ones,
they were not yet even old enough

to vote?

Sunday, April 15, 2012