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‘Mirrored Images’, a collection of English and Sinhala and Tamil poetry from Sri Lanka, was launched in Colombo on September 20th, and subsequently in Kandy on the 27th and in Jaffna on the 30th. The Colombo event was chaired by the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, HE Yashwant Singh, with Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Minister of National Languages and Social Integration as Chief Guest. The even was arranged by the Indian Cultural Centre, in collaboration with the Alliance Francaise.
Both these institutions have collaborated on the launches in Kandy and in Jaffna. The former event was held at Peradeniya University and the latter at the Indian consulate. Poets featured in the book read at all the events, attendance in Colombo by readers from Jaffna, and vice versa, being sponsored by the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration.
The volume was launched earlier in Canada by the Sri Lankan Mission in Toronto, with a keynote address by Prof Chelva Kanaganayakam, who has furnishe an introduction to the Tamil section of the book. Prof Chelvanayakam taught English previously at the University of Jaffna, while his father was Professor of Tamil at the University of Peradeniya. The introduction to the Sinhala section of the book was written by Prof Amarakeerthi Liyanage who teaches currently at the University of Peradeniya.
The book, which was edited by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha and published by the National Book Trust of India, is a sequel to ‘Bridging Connections’, a collection of English and Sinhala and Tamil short stories from Sri Lanka which was published in 2007 and has now been translated into Oriya and Marathi and Tamil.
Poems from each language on similar themes were brought together by Prof Wijesinha for a weekly column in the ‘Sunday Observer’, which was then features on this site. Over the next few months poems from each language, in alphabetical order of the names of the writers, as they appear in each section of the book, will be brought together here, to enhance understanding of the different styles and perspectives, and of the common humanity of all the writers.

Human Bomb

By Eric Illayaparacchi

There is a terrifying secret under the voluptuous breasts

fire burning in the blue-lotus eyes

The city, walled round like a breast in a bra

will be blasted in an instant

This terrifying she-devil

is she the same docile, feminine, Eastern woman?

Born as Sita in the past

she was mother, madam, wife and daughter

Before your eyes, thin waist and breasts explode

Black she-devil! Say you are Sita!

 

Days in the Trenches

P. AHILAN

Good Friday

the day they nailed you to the cross.

A hot wind blew

between the sea and the shore

one or perhaps two sea-crows flew about in the flawless sky

the wind abrading the palmyra trees

filled us with indescribable fear

That was our last day at sea.

We came ashore to our town

only the waves turned back

when the sun dropped into the sea

we fell on our knees and wept

a black howl rose from us

and joined the night

In the distance

like a lone corpse in the cremation ground

our town lay burning

Good Friday

the day they nailed you to the cross.

Translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom

 

Refugees – Old Man, Old Woman

JEAN ARASANAYAGAM

They sit where you ask them to sit

they sit against the wall, they sleep against the wall

they curl up on mats embryos in sleep

some curse and grumble, others silence keep

there’s a baby four days old

it sleeps beside its mother, father’s lost somewhere

dead or just deserted no one knows or cares

she groans, so soon after labour, asks for rags

old clothes, there’s a young boy sick and fevered

stretched upon the ground

buses comes in, disgorge their loads

empty their entrails of human bundles

old men, women, children

with bowls and plates they stand

lining the stairways and the passages

in queues for food, rice, sambar

a man awake night after night,

upon his head unsutured wounds

stuck together with plaster, paces endlessly

the crowded corridors.

An old woman stands in the centre

of the courtyard, white saree wrapped

about her earlobes empty of thodu

she does not move

she doesn’t stand on familiar ground

round her neck there is no thali

she sees nothing, no one round her

that she knows or recognizes

the silent throngs move on

coiling snakes empty their poison sacs and venom

we face each other

“Have you eaten?” I ask

she does not answer

a young woman comes up and leads her away

but gently, it’s not important to her

in what direction she must go

out or in there’s no guarantee there’s safety

the town is burning, burning

the streets are filled with marauders

new fires start up

before old ones die down

or are put out.

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