Poetry & Prose

Apocalypse soon

The child plays in the fire
scattering sparks
when suddenly the street erupts

in waves of flowing hate
and splintered flying glass
shattering old amities and sharding bonds
forged (so we thought) proof
against heat.

After sharp showers the street boys play in mud
when suddenly a flood of enmity
thicker than blood
descends
and to the singing of the lead
khaki and gunmetal and iron tread
advance and take their vantage at the corner

Hot August night
with pustulating stars burning like sores
above.
Love is a sweat
and intercourse in shadows will beget
lust only for the frenzies of a rape
of sluttish cul-de-sacs and bottlenecks.

The bottlenecks are broken; jagged ends
pierce the vitals of a nation.
Death words are spoken, old familiars
fall silent and retreat to roots.
The junction stations soon will fill
with seething hordes like ants before the rain
fear-breathing herds hard-ridden to the kill
and on the concrete platforms hob-nailed boots
drown out the thunder of the train.

Divide and rule. And pendulous to the North
hangs Jambudvipa*, stained with her own blood
bleeding heart red as ripe pomegranate
and bitter as the damson. All the fruits of hate
quivering she holds. Waiting to drop
into our gaping mouths.
Dark faces on the city pavements pale
beneath the mysteries of holy ash;
what of the roots spread wide and deep
and far beyond the limestone of the North?
A wind blows through the halls of high commerce
the brilliant trembles at the flare of nostril
flames falter in the sacred lamps of brass
in dwellings on the arcades of Colombo.

71
was lots of fun
we had our curfew parties.

58
was not so great
and now....

What happens now?

Will out of blackened streets and rubble ruins
caravans ride forth into the blazing
deserts of isolation, where the crack
of lonely snipers' rifles fills the air
and Brahmins** hover, flickering in the haze
of heat-filled sky?
Has the Fifth Horseman*** come again to raise
his banner, and wreak havoc on the land?



Richard de Zoysa | August 1981

Richard de Zoysa  (18 March 1958 – 18 February 1990) a well-known Sri Lankan journalist, author, human rights activist and actor, was abducted and murdered by a government death squad on February 18, 1990.

* Jambudvipa - One of the names the ancient Sinhalese gave India
** Brahmins - Brahmin kites, birds of prey commonly found in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka's Dry Zone.
*** Fifth Horseman - see Tarzie Vittachi's 'Emergency '58'. The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse is Racial Strife

© Ed: Wijesinghe, Rajiva, This Other Eden: Collected Poems of Richard de Zoysa , 1990. Colombo: The English Association of Sri Lanka