Poetry & Prose

Animal Crackers

(For Dimitri, when he is old enough to understand)

"Draw me a lion."
So I set my pen
to work. Produce a lazy, kindly beast....
Colour it yellow.

"Does it bite?"
"Sometimes,
but only when it's angry -
if you pull its' tail
or say that it is just another cat...."
But for the most part indolent, biddable,
basking in the sun of ancient pride.

(Outside, the sunlight seems trifle dulled
and there's a distant roaring, like a pride
of lions, cross at being awakened
from long, deep sleep).

Then.
"Draw me a tiger."
Vision of a beast
compounded of Jim Corbett yarns
and Blake
stalks through my mind, blazing Nature's warning,
black bars on gold.

"DRAW!"
You turn and draw the gun
on me, as if to show
that three-years-old understands force majeure
and as you pull the silly plastic trigger
all hell breaks loose: quite suddenly the sky
is full of smoke and orange stripes of flame.

BUT HERE THERE ARE NO TIGERS
HERE THERE ARE ONLY LIONS.

And their jackals
run panting, rabid in the roaring's wake,
infecting all with madness as they pass
while My Lord
the Elephant sways in his shaded arbour,
wrinkles his ancient brows, and wonders -
if, did he venture out to quell this jungle-tide
of rising flame, he'd burn his tender feet.

"Put down that gun. If you do, and you're good,
I'll draw a picture of an elephant.
A curious beast that you must understand...."

DON'T LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW -

Just a party down the lane
a bonfire, and some fireworks, and they're burning -
No, not a tiger - just some silly cats."

 

Richard De Zoysa | Colombo, 25 July, 1983

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.


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