In Kelaniya


In Kelaniya

In Kelaniya
at the back
of Dharmaloka Vidyalaya
lies a tiny shack

inhabited by memories
before the insurrection
before they were washed down
into the great big sea
by the kelani
dead, rotten, bloated

the handsome one
twice my age at least
even i could tell

all the girls loved him
as if he were a bounteous king
hands sculpted scuplting

with a silver tongue
and a heart of gold
hair like a prince’s
face full of poetry

it was the holidays
the soldiers and tanks
were on the streets
of Colombo

the elephants were banished
the dancers unseen
schools closed
and mozart playing on the radio

the streets a river of emptiness
khaki, boots, guns, bayonets
bossy thug-like men
in authority.

hourly bulletins
when news was only heard
before at six
we had better things to do
every hour

all locked up inside
with nowhere to play
but one day the soldiers went home
as all soldiers must
and the schools reopened

my parents brought news
from Dharmaloka
that half the youth
never returned

who ate pol sambal and indi appa
in the little shack at the back
was he one of them

who they say floated down the Kelani
in what now seems
like ancient times
I can never forget
every time I eat
pol sambal and indi appa

in a world where youth today
look as if they stepped out
of an american film
or a gap advertisement

do they know
how I ate pol sambal
with indi appa
with Suranimala

who treated me as if i were
his little baby sister
and my mom his teacher
and my dad his hero.

When life was complete
and all it took
was indiappa and pol sambol

Renuka Mendis, September 26, 2010


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