Three Awfully Immature Poems from 1993/94

These are from about 1993 or 1994 and somewhat green but I am very fond of them as they are some of the first I wrote. Though some of these lines make me cringe they were from another time and I do not wish to change a word.  I am particularly attached to Tony’s Father and some of the straight off the boat innocence of Disillusion.


Tony’s Father

The old man always walked
across the front yard of grandmother’s house
she saw him walk by, morning noon and night
like clockwork, like the sun rise and set.

He wore a black suit, leather shoes
a hat, a tie and black rimmed glasses
His skin was very dark, his hair was very white
He was quiet, dignified.

I walked across the front yard of grandmother’s house
Walked back and forth till I was twenty one
I played there, made mud pies, was middle pig
Played house, on the concrete slab
cooked rice in tiny pots.

The Concrete slab has been there since time began for me
One evening the old man walked back home
across the front yard of grandmother’s house
He tripped and fell, they called the ambulance.

The old man could not get up
They put him on a canvas stretcher
He’d hit his head on the concrete slab
The children were chased into the houses
they did not want us to see the blood.

Tony’s father was hurt very bad
His sisters cried, we wondered why
The next day, there was a big black box in their house
With tall white candles on silver candle sticks.

Tony’s father was in a big black box
white satin-lined, satin tasselled outside
The lid had a tiny glass window
To let the sunshine in? for a last glimpse?

Tony cried, Frankie cried
We heard their wails at the end of our house
Everyone went to the funeral
We could not go, for we were children
We saw the procession pass by
from a crack in the back door
We were quiet and very very curious.

The old man does not walk
across the front yard of grandmother’s house
The old man paid rent to my grandmother
now his children do
They paved the front yard, there is no concrete slab
No one will trip, be put in a satiny black box.

There is a monsoon of snow outside
Tony’s father walked in the steamy monsoon rain of long ago
The front yard is paved over, the concrete slab lies beneath
The old man walks
Across the front yard of grandmother’s house.

by Renuka Mendis circa 1993/94



A needle stuck in my arm, the pain comes in waves
I am in it, there is no way out
The books did not tell me it was anything like this!
Amma is with me, she holds my hand
I cannot sit or sleep, I want to walk
I bleed like an open tap.

I writhe too much, the needle comes off
It goes back in, in another spot
Amma looks concerned, as she always did
when I was ill with chicken pox, when a little girl.
She gives me comfort, I know I won’t die
But this is going on forever, there is no end in sight.

The needle pops out, it goes back in,
In another spot,
The pain goes on forever.

The hours seem like years
The waves are higher, intense, and there’s no relief
Does the baby feel the pain? it did not occur to me then.
I want it to be over, I want to sleep
Please put me to sleep, the nurse looks at me
as if I were a child.

They take me to a room, put me on another narrow bed
It will soon be over, I tell myself,
But no, she has “more time” the matron says.
Is the needle in or out? I do not know
I do not care! just stop the pain, please!

The needle pops out, it goes back in,
in another spot
The pain goes on forever.

I push and push, but no such luck
She has more time, the doctor says
I am exhausted, I want to give up
They ask me to push, I push and push.

Sweet relief! a messy blob of life
All covered in blood as red as a beetroot
You scream and cry, the pain is gone,
I am excited, did I really do that?
I have given you life!

When you are far away and when I miss you
I think of that needle and the pain
It reminds me you are real, you are there
The pain tells me of that invisible,
retractable umbilical cord.

by Renuka Mendis circa 1993/94




I was mesmerized
the crystal, the china, the shining pots and pans
Mannequins in glass cases, golden haired.
Strings of diamonds lined the streets – viewed from a plane;
gleaming and shiny – cars on the ribbons of highways.
Tense people – running about
I still don’t know where they run to
Do they fall over a cliff? like lemmings?

In Amsterdam –
they sold rubber penises in the name of free expression
my eyes could not believe.
Above all this, windmills turned
church steeples reached out to the starry night
Museums –
graced by lacemakers and pearl necklaced ladies
and crazed, terrified pictures drawn by a lost man.

Keep the crystal, the china, the shining pots and pans
Keep the mannequins and the golden hair.
Give me my clay pots, covered in soot,
The smell of burning wood and smoking coconut leaves,
The sound of a bull drawn cart
rolling along to a song of human proportions.
I’ve seen enough of the lost man’s crazy pictures
I prefer the face of the devil in the jungle
I am tired of long stemmed roses in vases.
Oh, bull drawn cart, take me to the forest
where the orchid blooms, and the bright hued birds sing.

The smell of cow-dung is still in my memory
The feel of cold fresh water out of a well
The reek of coconut husks rotting in a pit
To end up as coir ropes,
Ropes that make swings for me to fly in!
The fragrance of treacled sweets frying
The innocent music of the language
spoken by villagers.

by Renuka Mendis circa 1993/94




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