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The Stealing of a Jeweled Lamp


Comrades, I need an answer

As to why you killed my husband

When he broke your law, the Law of Darkness

When you forbade the lighting of lamps


To make your point

He is not guilty

He obeyed your law

It was me

Who made him break it


For the offence

Of lighting a lamp

You have put out the lamp

That brought light to my household


It was not he who wanted it lit

But I, to quieten my little son

Who feared the darkness



Asked him to light the lamp


Where is your justice?

Why could you not find out

The reason he broke your law

Before you put out the lamp of my life?


Translated by Malini Govinnage




The Return


The horror of that night lives with me still.


I fled across the border like an abandoned bird,

to save my life

still vivid the wrenching horror,

after thirteen years.


I am this earth’s daughter,

uprooted, my journey began when this land became a red dust


But long years have not parted me from this land

this earth, this good earth nurtured me with its honesty,

its strength

I could not leave it

my life lies mingled with this earth’s dreams.


Today I return

in search of a life

once destroyed

I re-cross the border

my companion at my side

and my little ones

Thanks to the peace-talks and all that


Paths and houses are overgrown

palmyra trees beheaded

fields planted with landmines

they mourn silently

wordlessly proclaim past horror, tragedy, loss

nothing here nurtures life

Where have they all gone

the fields with their milky smell

of newly ripening grain

the wind bearing the rustle

of new paddy

temple-bells at day-break?

Where are the village mornings

filled with rhythmic chants?

Where is the music of the temple bell?


Nothing here nurtures life.


This earth which endured it all

remains a land laid waste

Is this only red dust

or is it our good earth still?


I know this:

it is no longer possible

to repair a torn root

re-plant, water, nurture it again

But what of it?


In our front courtyard


the neem-tree has burst into flower

and the children play cricket

under its shade


This earth is still held fast


in that delighted time

of childhood games.


Translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom



Lines for Richard

The dreams of many seasons were

woven in your short summer’s warp and weft.

The stage that you adorned

is now bereft.

Still in the quiet of that hall

one hears the haunting resonance of your voice,

that brought to life this character

and that in solo theatre.

Children’s laughter pealed with wild delight

as they pranced with you through Kipling’s jungle land

and youth sat marveling

when you peopled an evening

with the world that Dickens wrote about.

Then again, in different

vein, there were the plays

where you explored some inner dark,

and an audience went

reliving their own lives

in the tragic roles

you made so real.

Yet, for all that restless

energy and camaraderie,

there was in you a stillness

and a transcience

and like the dragon-fly

that basks in sunlight a little while

spreading its brilliant wings

for all to wonder at and gaze upon.

one moment you were here, and the next gone.