Poetry & Prose

Last Station

(A watch worn by a passenger who perished in the train wrecked by the Tsunami at Peraliya* had stopped at 9.25am)

‘The train shall now recommence its journey.
Passengers are requested to return to their seats … Calling at all stations!’

Does someone
turn back time from 9.25 am
bidding the enraged
dark waves to return to
some unseen abyss,
long away from the shore,
as a telephone rings ceaselessly,
unanswered at the last station
before death?

Time has stopped with a train,
between the waves and
a graveyard,
an indelible print of eternal regret .

Laughter and banter
still seem to echo
with the dying notes
of a blind beggar’s fiddle,

as a child is looking steadily
towards the far horizon.
After that moment no further chatter,
only the interminable search,

mine, for my dead …
yours, for your dead …

You must be careful, where you step,
as bodies are laid out.
One false move, even a diary
beneath your feet may weep in pain.

The mechanical arm of a JCB
digs deep through
the hearts of the undead
searching for their departed souls
with each breath.
Time starts moving once again
in some parallel universe
and a whistle is blown
for the journey to resume.

‘The train shall now recommence its journey.
Passengers are requested to return to their seats … Calling at all stations.’

Passengers, arise from your sodden graves,
take each other’s swollen hands
and board the train.
Your loved ones await you
at the last station.

 

Ajith C. Herath | 2005 January

Translated by Prathap de Silva | Image: 'Viccisitudes' Underwater sculpture - Jason deCaires Taylor (2010)

* A small southern coastal village in Sri Lanka where an overcrowded passenger train was hurled off its tracks as the Tsunami tidal waves rolled in December 2004, killing over 1,700 people.

left

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.