The Song of the Defeated

The song of the victors
rises from every direction.
The song, reaching its cresendo,
lands like a spit on our faces.
And yet, they are afraid.
Why? Because they lack
the armour of justice.

Like the shoots of grass
growing from the ashes
of burn pastures, we too
have our songs.
Our songs, which are like
warriors in camouflage:
the victors call them dirges,
Many epic vows begin
from laments. As they say,
Tears caused by a tyrant’s rule
Will wash away his royal wealth.
There are songs like this
in the epics, that begin
with the defeat of justice.
All through time, new histories
have been born out of defeated justice.
Today, we are the defeated.

The victors are celebrating these days
by liberally throwing bits of bone.
Their drunkenness and ecstacy
make us afraid.

At night they will drag away
Tamil women from the camps, for interrogation.

Or, for the sake of spectacle
they will shoot Indian Tamils at sea.

We choose restraint.
The nine-headed is not Ravanan.
The five-faces is not Murugan.
The three-headed is never Brahma.
We are many-faced ardhanarishwaras,
halfwoman halfman,
with faces in both the North and the East.
If any face is missing, it is not us.
Even if chosen, it could end up a mistake.

Freed, our people
And our Muslim brothers chased to Puthalam
Have to return home
To give birth to a new era.


The songs of the victorious
have grown weak.
Because injustice is a pestilence.
Taking from us, they have eaten
Every possible thing we had.
Now, they will eat another.

As lime turns turmeric to kungumam,
Self-criticism will turn defeat into medicine.
Even our inertia is a remedy for pain.
This is the only solution we know.
Because self-criticism brings magic to defeat,
The walls we built around ourselves
Will surround the enemy.

We migrated to the sky.
The battlefield is land.
The fortress of the intelligent one
Always begins in land
And rises into the sky.

The defeated search
for their folk deities in blood and mud.
They will discover Karuppusamys, Kathavaranayas,
Madurai veerans like Deepan
who became a shooting star at Mullivaikkal
This is the time of gods of a news lineage.
The anger of our raped women
will be reborn as fiery goddesses.

Like a burnt forest sprouting shoots.
My song is sung with subtlety
Because we have to get home first.
We have to reach our home.


We are a charred forest
But our song continues
From the roots that remain.
Our Song will continue
As a dirge for the dead
A call for the lost
A reclaiming of home
Again and again, a living dream
A longing for freedom.
Tomorrow’s critic might discover
That this is not my own song.
Be quiet, do not tell.

I weave my song, stealing from
the songs of bare cherry trees
Dreaming of spring
On the bank of the Thames.


Motherland,do not mourn.

You are torn into the North and the East
and our women who die protecting you
are ghost-fucked by Sinhala soldiers
who sing and dance. Even on a day as cruel as this
don’t be shattered,
but sing the war-song of tomorrow’s life.
Sing the song that brings sap to burnt roots.

No fire will last on the bones
of our honoured ancestors.
So, for this day of black ash,
sing a song of butterflies
serenading buds that burst
into a rainbow.
As the howls of our kin die down
play the vital music heard
from the drums of comrades.

on a pleasure-filled day
my father and you sculpted me with love,
with the soil and water of Eelam.
Now, with my five elements
I will sculpt you a fortress.
If i cannot curse the legs that kick you,
what is the use of this song?


The dirges of Hamelin---which lost all its children
In the story of the Pied piper-
resound all over my motherland.
my unwavering heart breaks.

What will last beyond the tears
of a people made destitute?
What remains except the dream
of a blossoming liberation?

Today’s nations were built by men
on the debris of former empires.
Here, there are no thousand-year borders.

From the burial mounds of some of these nations
Tomorrow’s nation will be born.

Accursed be the nations that hunt
their own people on land and on sea.
Curse the nations that play the fiddle
even as their people burn
on land and on sea.
Even today, you think yourselves safe.
But tomorrow, hungry red ghosts
will rise from the Indian Ocean and its shores
Curse those who breed enemies
all around them by disregarding the small men.
They are like Gulliver, tied up
by the frightened Lilliputians.


In homes filled now with triumph
over a victory devoid of justice
Tomorrow’s dirge will rise.
In the streets were those killed
being peace doves lamented
Tomorrow’s celebration will begin.
My eyes grow red like red-hot iron.
I come here to sing a curse.
This is a dance of destruction
without masks or make-up.

I sing these curses, making a vow
on my Tamil and my poems.
I curse in the name of my truth
that knows no compromise.
Woe unto you who drenched your hands
and minds in the blood of my people.
Army of justice, accept me
as a battlefield sacrifice.

Angel of justice,
I sing odes to you and bow before you
though I have never bowed
before the enemy or the fighter.
Give punishment for the genocide.
Upon those who killed
Upon those who supplied weapons
Upon those who did not prevent harm
And upon those who prevented those who tried to prevent harm,
Let justice descend
like the fire of apocalypse.


Primordial Mother! Do not cry.
Our history is not a sand-castle
In Mullivaikkal that it can be
washed away.
It is built from the living desire of the North-East peoples.
It is their unfinished dream.

From Melbourne to Toronto
Across the seven seas
Tamils awaken to your call.
Even the last Tamil in the world
Dreams only of your liberty, Mother!


VIS Jayapalan | May 2013

Translated by Meena Kandasamy | Image: Käthe Kollwitz 'The Mothers' - 1923



V.I.S.Jayapalan is an acclaimed Tamil poet and a writer. His political involvements forced him into exile in late 1980s. His poetry books are used in Tamil Nadu universities and colleges and since 2006 he has been spending more time in Chennai, writing and acting in films. In 2011 he won the Indian National Award for his Acting in Tamil movie 'Aadukalam.'


Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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