today i plan to steal a sequin

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around now on days like this
i wait
for her to appear
as she does
every tired afternoon
a lovers visit
she turns up dressed
in soft silvers and golds
dappled
in three sequins off each ear
to politely
steal kisses
that were all mine when night turned into days
days that get shorter and shorter

in alarm
like a tailor without cloth
i hang on in hope off a rope
of tensile silk
as the day gets shorter each afternoon
by miles at a time compounded
the thread she hangs me by
gets thinner
longer
across the sky a fragile tightrope
as i drown into shorter days
and its sure promise
that soon, very soon
she will not return.

Renuka Mendis, Toronto, August 22, 2015

Photo by Renuka Mendis, in Toronto, August, 2015.

Pottuvil

the peacock
on the mosque in silhouette
its mane heavy
its long eyes survey
as tires burn on the causeway
and a boy child gapes
from far away
through window’s bars
and sees —
a peacock at the crest

of a minaret.

Renuka Mendis, March 23, 2015

 

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Photo by Renuka Mendis, in Pottuvil, August, 2011.

Footnote: I am told this is the 50th Post on my Store Room here. Thank you to everyone who visited and are yet to visit. I like being here most days. Renuka – Aug 12, 2015.

smoke gets in my eyes

at loose ends
hiding from the world
the sun comes down in shards
benignly cuts
forearm
hands
hair
shoulders
trying to rip up my thin old dress
hanging loose and lazy
hammock style
i fear the unknown of sunday afternoons
as mondays lie in wait
in fear
sleeping feigning early hibernation
of oncoming summer’s end
a death
an entombment of possible escapes
seeking solace in afternoon tea cups
listless
of hours wasted except for listening
to music
the silence of rustling leaves on the first quavers of dry
towards a bonfire’s early evening blaze
smoke and smell that straight line to when we first walked the earth upright
and noticed trees
unclothed or covered in leaves
can we stop the time at 4.11p.m.
please.

but it’s time
to put away last night’s dishes now dry
except for the drip drip drip of a few spoons that stuck together
so i can rinse that messy pan
and fry something up to slake hunger
and once again forget the world
but then i remember
i can be useful
and stir some milk
and make yogurt
and laugh again fearless;
because you
my darling
are here.

Renuka Mendis, Aug 9, 2015, Toronto.

First get yourself a cabbage the size of a football – Cabbage Kottu

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First of all make sure you have lime. We’ll get to that later.

Rinse the Cabbage – Get yourself a spanking new head of cabbage the size of a football. Cut off 1/3rd of it and leave it in the fridge for another day. Split the remainder in two lengthwise. Now tenderly dismantle the rest of the cabbage leaving cores intact and rinse it good in water. I know. But I am like that. How to dismantle a cabbage you ask? What? Your mother didn’t teach you that. Must I have to get into that now.
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How to dismantle a Cabbage – OK. If you insist. Kids these days. You dismantle a cabbage leaf by leaf and it will squeak at each turn like there were little fairy children stuck between the leaves. You trim off the really near woody ends in the leaves in part closest to the core. Throw out any blemished leaves on outside or feed it to your compost heap or your worms. Once most of the leaves are removed then you get to the core which is usually paler and that you don’t have to dismantle. That is when you are about 2/3rd to 1/4ths of the way to the heart of the cabbage. Yes. Cabbages also have hearts. And to get to the heart you have to rip out the leaves. Yeah.

Sacré-Cœur – Sometimes there is a tough core you get to as you get to the centre of the cabbage. That you’ll have to remove and you should not use it unless you are really desperate. It almost kinda feels knobbish. Ask some other time.

Slice the bloody Cabbage – Place rinsed cabbage leaves in a colander to drain. These leaves have ribs and the outer leaves have ribs that are like the Drakensberg Range. Trim the leaves one by one of the tougher ribs that run down the middle of each leaf. Only the larger ribs. Slice the ribs real thin with a good sharp knife. I use my chef’s knife for pretty much most of my cutting jobs. Now take the leaves or parts thereof. Start with the outer leaves. Lay them one on top of the other about four ply. Slice them into strips about ¼ inch to ½ inch wide. Once the leaves are done slice the cores. Since they are more tender you’ll find they are easier to slice after the slightly less tender outer leaves. But this is all good stuff so don’t throw out anything. Place the sliced cabbage in a large bowl as you progress.

Green Chillies – Fresh and hot – Once you are done slicing the cabbage slice about 3 – 4 fresh hot green chillies and add to it. Or you can adjust to taste if you are a coward. If you are a daredevil go for it.

Get yourself about 4 – 5 dry red chillies and pound it with about a heaping tablespoon of maldive fish chips. Set aside. Add a 1” piece of Ceylon cinnamon to it with about ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds.

Set aside a teaspoon of mustard seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds. Also about a tablespoon of fresh/frozen curry leaves. (Never dry. That’s disgusting).

Get yourself about a heaping teaspoon of turmeric and two teaspoons good dark roasted Ceylon curry powder.
Slice about 3 small onions lengthwise. Mince fine a piece of ginger about a thumb’s size. (Ha! My thumb). About 5-10 cloves of garlic peeled, then sliced lengthwise and then halved lengthwise.

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan that could hold all of the cabbage, heat about 1/3 or 1/4th cup of oil to near smoking over medium heat. Take off stove and take a splatter shield and quickly throw in the mustard seeds and cover with splatter shield. They will pop and easily burn you. Be careful. Then add the fennel seeds to brown. Use splatter shield. Then bring back to the stove at medium heat. Add the curry leaves and when fragrant (takes a minute or less, much less) and the onions and fry stirring often till near brown and cooked through having added a ¼ teaspoon salt to it. Stir all the time and once cooked and beginning to brown make a space in middle and add the garlic and continue to stir till beginning to soften but do not burn.

Make some space in pan and add some oil (tablespoon) into the space and heat till hot. Add the pounded chillies and maldive fish and stir without burning and then add the fenugreek and Ceylon cinnamon. Stir for a few seconds and make some space in pan. Add and stir the turmeric and curry powder. Stir a few seconds till fragrant and now incorporate everything in pan.

Add the cabbage in batches starting with one fourth. Keep stirring. Reduce heat if it’s too high so you don’t burn the cabbage. That’d be disgusting. Watch and stir and keep adding the rest of cabbage in similar batches till all is incorporated. Keep heat as high as possible but not so high it would burn the cabbage. Keep stirring. Once all the cabbage is in keep stirring for about 15 minutes till cabbage is bite tender. Taste for salt and adjust seasonings.
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Adding cabbage in batches … and constantly stirring it so it does not burn.

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Done and glistening.

Adding Egg – Season three eggs with salt, pepper, turmeric and Ceylon brown curry powder and lightly beat. In another pan take enough cabbage kottu for two and make sure it stays hot. Make space in middle and add the egg mix. Wait till egg starts to set at bottom (in minutes) and then gently stir so egg cooks and are in soft pieces that are seasoned with all the spices.

If one wants to egg the kottu so to speak in larger batches do the same in a larger pan.  But I’ve never tried that. I tend to add the eggs in serving sizes of 2 – 3 at a time.

Serve with lime slices and if you like, Grace’s hot sauce. Will make your heart race. And that’s a good thing, eh?

Renuka Mendis

August 7, 2015, Toronto.

Football in Primary Colours – a short note on The World Is A Ball by John Doyle

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There are four primary colours. Red, green, blue and football. And Doyle colours the whole world football. The paintbrush his heart. I cannot remember a book that made me so happy of late. A joyous, funny, warm and informative caravanserai through two World Cups and two Euros; deliciously larded with biting satire and sometimes spiked with heartbreak.

A travelogue and commentary interspersed with rich reportage and some behind the scenes nuggets and mostly beautiful people – some on the tops of lampposts and others holding forth over the drinks counter in railway cars; all amidst the din made by a woman on a balcony hammering away on pots and pans in celebration. Christine, the street-sleepers. Trevor and Jack (and Julie) on the train. Then back home in Toronto on Niagara Street where boys play football with sweater pile goals as snowflakes freeze. The evocative tiny paragraph of an entirely unforeseen memorial for the Hillsborough Disaster which took me entirely unawares. Short flash backs on Toronto street cars. Sedate Portuguese men watching football in Toronto bars. The common touch. Most of all for me Doyle’s accounting of Zidane’s moments of fury in Berlin; a personal catharsis and a straight line from me and my TV screen under smoke-stack towers in the Berlin Olympiastadion to a kind of justice in an unjust world. Yup. I remember where I was. I could go on.

I have not had such fun reading a travelogue since perhaps reading From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet by Vikram Seth in another place and another time. But this was more personal because of football and it is from Toronto and also from somewhere else like many of us here given Doyle’s close ties to Ireland. That constant need to bridge the gulf between the here and the there. The book for some hours filled up that chasm us outsiders carry around as we trudge around this City dragging around fragile roots.

If you have even a passing fancy for football and a generous heart; an absolute must read. Doyle opens up a whole world that we never see on TV. I await the sequel for 2010 and 2014 World Cups and the Euros in between. If ever I run into the author on the streetcar guess that will be my first question. Where is the clock that Maria gave you in Porto? And that is kinda how I feel; a bit like Maria with her plastic bag and present. Thank you.

And to Brazil 2014 – Tenho saudades de você.

Renuka Mendis  –  From July 25, 2014.

Photo by Renuka Mendis.  World Cup 2010 and daisies on Yarmouth Road, Toronto.

A is for Annabel – Short note on Annabel by Kathleen Winter

“Different though the sexes are, they inter mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above.” Virginia Wolf

Kathleen Winter dragged me around the last few days holding me trapped in a small town in Labrador. Serving up regular doses of pure wonderment and magic. Opening tightly shut doors in the soul and psyche. Feeding me small but great lives lived and some stifled like beaver dams stemming blood’s tide; and feeding mostly its cruelties. Both ordinary and not so ordinary. And like in the Cantique de Jean Racine which plays a part in the book; in the book’s last chapters Kathleen Winter lifted me up on a magic cloud of powerful emotion stemming from seemingly simple situations that I felt I was floating closer to the ceiling in my room as I came to the book’s end.

Sometimes I felt that the narrative sagged but I think Winter was only playing a trick on me. A book like no other I have ever read. It opened up and made sense of the trap of gender and freed me from it. Even more importantly it made me look at some of the more difficult and very personal aspects of my own life and helped me make better sense of those situations like nothing else has done for me. It has now become a book that I will hold dear always. And a bitter sweet love letter to Labrador written out like one were knitting a scarf. A comfort.

You want to know more? Well you know what to do. Read Annabel. A book to love dearly. A book to read again and again. A book that is hard to love until you’ve walked towards the very end.

Renuka Mendis

from May 3, 2014.

Goldfrapp sang Annabel inspired by Winter’s book. Watch. This is from Goldfrapp TV on Youtube.

don’t ask then – by Renuka Mendis

don’t
breathe down my neck
instead
sit here
first
hold my hand
bring me tea and rose water

ask
where it hurts
which part of heart
which knuckle
at which street fight buckled
if it bled
and always bring me tea
and rose water
sit here
first

then
look at the trees
you’ll hear the birds
the sky will smile
and i will spill
everything i held
corked up
in a musty old bottle.

Renuka Mendis – July 4, 2015, Toronto