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Grab it Daughter if You Can


There it is

grab it daughter if you can!


We who live in a box house

can find shelter in a flat


Open the golden door

and help us

to leave this ‘inheritance’ –

this line-house at Dematagoda.*


To bring up

your eight brothers and sisters

and to quicken our Susila’s marriage,


Please daughter

think of these things a bit!

We gave you all

all the wealth we possessed

your peerless beauty

the uncertain future

of a fatherless brood

the destitute future

of a fatherless brood


Please daughter

think of these

with your still tender head

you’re our distant star of hope


Please daughter

be devoted to that child


Please daughter

think of us too

who are helpless


You’re the sun that fights

For our dark lives

You’re the moon that lights

our dark lives.


Translated by A T Dharmapriya






A Night in Frankfurt


In a room in the meanest quarter of Frankfurt

crammed like the womb of an impregnated sow

like Egyptian mummies

swathed in blankets

lie a pack of helpless refugees from Jaffna


Wandering mongrel

dog-tired and prone in bed

when not scavenging for a living

his days crawl


The mercury in the stem

narrows to minus zero

A cry rings out in the stillness of night

Sisters wait, in fond expectation and romantic dreams

He, his mortgaged title-deed trapped in the village VIP’s chest

orphaned in his native land

seeks refuge in foreign climes

his youthful life wracked

like storm-stricken Batticaloa

A something rankles like a nightmare


Beside his bedstead saucepans lie strewn

grim reminder of a home

he will never have


In his hands, crumpled news of a betrayal

Abandoned, without home or hearth

a wretch, he weeps


with the snowy evening


Translated by S Rajasingham






Yet Another Incident in July 1983


Burying the dead

being an art well developed in our times

(our psycho-analysts have helped us much

to keep balanced minds, whatever

that may mean)

there is no reason really

for this matter to remain so vivid

as if some rare occurrence. I assure you


I am not sentimental, never having

had a breakdown as they say.

I am as shy of my emotions

as you are. And I attend to my daily

tasks in a very matter of fact way.

Being prudent too, when a government says “Forget”

I act accordingly. My ability to forget

has never been doubted, never

having had any adverse comments


on that score either. Yet I remember

the way they stopped that car,

the mob. There were four

in that car, a girl, a boy


between four and five it seemed) and their

parents – I guessed – the man and the woman.

It was in the same way they stopped other cars

I did not notice any marked

difference. A few questions

in gay mood, not to make a mistake

I suppose, then they proceeded to

action, by then routine. Pouring

petrol and all that stuff.

Then someone, noticing something odd

as it were, opened the two left side

doors, took away the two children, crying and resisting

as they were moved away from their parents


Children’s emotions have sometimes

to be ignored for their own good, the guy must have

thought. Someone practical

was quick, lighting a match

efficiently. An instant

fire followed, adding one more

to many around. Around

the fire they chattered

of some new adventure. A few


scattered. What the two inside

felt or thought was no matter.

Peace loving people were hurrying

towards homes as in a procession ……….

Then suddenly the man inside

breaking open the door was

out, his shirt already on

fire and hair too. Then bending


took his two children. Not even

looking around as if executing a calculated

decision, he resolutely

re-entered the car.

Once inside, he closed the door

himself….. I heard the noise



Still the ruined car

is there, by the road-side

with other such things. Maybe

the Municipality will remove it

one of these days

to the Capital’s

garbage pit. The cleanliness of the Capital

receives Authority’s top priority.