Poetry & Prose

Seven Dreams

First Dream  - You never noticed

I was falling
From unimaginable points of infinity.
Mucky water surged
Through the streets of the city.
Moments before I fell
On to the water,
I woke up an infant
In a cradle floating among debris.
I passed men and women
Smiling and waving at me,
Wading through muddy water,
Gathering up their clothes.

When the cradle toppled
Into a sewer,
I leaned out,
Shivering and unbearably cold
I crawled out of the cradle
Eagerly following you,
But you never noticed!
Suddenly, someone grabbed me
And threw me back into the surge.
Once again I was falling and falling.
Just before hitting the ground,
I felt I was waking up.

Second Dream  - Your kiss did not lift the curse I was suffering

The rain was endless.
You stared out of the window.
The mist from your breath
Blurred the Knuckles [1] mountain range.

I was falling asleep,
Knocked out by chloroform,
When I woke up
From a tear slipping out of your eye.
Stretched out on the dissecting table
I stared at you.
Once, for the last time,
You held me gently and kissed me,
Opened the window and dumped me out,
Then left the science lab
Never to return to school.
And your kiss never lifted the curse I suffered,
Nor did I ever wake up, before falling.

Third Dream  -  The bridge that could not be conquered

Naked they made you kneel down on the bridge,
Tightened your hands on your back.
To save your life,
I screamed and scraped the earth
For the last rifle none of you ever revealed.
It had carved itself underground;
I could not find it!
Corpses were floating downstream.
Since,
Whenever I pass this bridge,
I fall into the waters with a wounded heart.
I am still falling.

Fourth Dream  -  I saw the blue skies and the clouds

Sitting on a rotten plank bed
Under a passion fruit hedge in the detention camp
I was thinking of ways to escape.
Softly you whispered into my ear
That digging a tunnel
I might be able to see
Yet another blue sky with white clouds
Beyond a range of seven mountains and large forests.

When the public well was abandoned
And the water was calm at noon,
I sat on the rim of the well
And looking down
Found that tunnel.
The bottomless well revealed
Yet another blue sky and white clouds
From the other end of the earth,
And you stared at me through my own eyes.

Ere the images faded:
Blue sky, white clouds and your face,
I wanted to flee through the well
Before the waters were ruffled
By buckets of  detainees by the dozen.
Again. through an endless hole
I was falling towards the blue sky.

Fifth Dream  -  Blue tarpaulin pyre

When the cradle was burning
Along with the camp hut of blue tarpaulin,
You came out crawling
Your tiny hands and legs burnt,
As I was helplessly watching
Your fearful struggle.
Once, for an instant, our eyes met.
I will never know, if you noticed.
Crawling
You passed fossilized me,
Fell into a ditch
And disappeared amongst
Dead bodies and smoke …
The ditch that protected you
Was leveled into a tomb by bulldozers.
As they faded into the distance
All I could see was that tiny hand
Above the sands.

Sixth Dream  -  As I was late, I missed you forever

I woke up in sorrowful vigilance.
Unaware, if it was early or late.
It was still dark.
All of a sudden, a feeling persisted
That someone somewhere was waiting for me.
Who and where was uncertain,
At times it might have been you.
The days ahead, the tasks and appointments,
Were torn off the calendar.
Only the months and days that had passed are remaining …

Walking along the A-9 road,
I cleared the last military checkpoint,
Yet nowhere could I see you.
As I was late,
I did not know, if you had left.
I was in the Vanni [2], but you were not there.
So I was sitting on the doorstep
Of a house in ruins
Waiting with your half of the cigarette …

Seventh Dream  -  The past shattered and floated away

Once the search operation had been completed,
The soldiers left.
And in the demolished room I found
Our group’s last portrait
Torn into shreds.
Lingering on those time-faded scattered pieces
Was our smile
Of the last moments we spent together
Just before going our ways
Towards unknown destinies.
I placed the pieces on the window sill
Wanting to mend them.
A sudden mysterious wind
Stirred them up.
Piece by piece they scattered
With the last autumn leaves
Moving to sites far away.
We had become tiny pieces of paper
Tumbling away in the wind.

Reflections on the Metamorphoses

Lying on a bed early at dawn,
Listening to the song of a bird
Is a dream
Which may collapse from a fatal scream
In yet another dream.

Who are you?
Dream by dream …
You follow me, while I follow you
And before we can meet
You escape
Only to reappear in different form.
Who are you?

Who are we?
Following each other, escaping each other again
Through the mountains, valleys and meadows
That once we crossed.
Who are we?
Thousands of metamorphoses in a single soul,
Thousands of souls in a single shape.

Even now,
I can not distinguish myself from you,
As I cannot tell you apart from the others.
You are the prime universal matter,
While I am but the reflector.

With the second wave,
The corpses were flushed out to sea
And the swords were cleaned.
Everything but the difference
Between the quick and the dead
Was washed away…

The nights they want to erase from our memory
Knock on the doors
Of wrecked houses full of bullet holes.
The dreams that were dreamt
During sleepless nights
Now are but short notes in an old diary…
Paths never taken at the junction of indecision
Are blurring in the mist of time.

The cheap coffin which held your corpse
Was abandoned in the middle of marshland.
Yet I saw people in a procession holding up high
The golden baldachin of the killer.
The deception passed justly unnoticed,
As similar ones had recurred in cycles.

A frog nailed its soul to the dissecting table
Split its chest and took out its heart,
While, its tongue stretched out,
It enjoyed seeing its own blood flow.
“This is my blood which I had long determined
To shed for your liberation.”
From that time on, no-one would ever die of starvation.

The last prayer rising up from the sorrowful darkness
Of Gethsemane [3] gardens
Did it not echo the holy truth
Revealed from Parileiya [4] jungle during the cold rains?

The harmonious calm of solitude
Experienced in a lonely school building in Bolivia [5]
Or in the cremation chamber of Borella Cemetery [6]
Or on the sands of  blood-soaked  Nandikadaal lagoon [7],
Is the same silence remaining
At the far end of the universe
Which the human race will never reach
While lugging their bundles of sins.
Conclusion

Freedom can only be sensed
An eternal prisoner
Held in a dream of itself.

My dreams, while unacceptable now,
Remain my reality,
Though you have forgotten,
We dreamt those dreams
Together, a long time ago.

If this is a dream
I would love to live that moment
Just before falling on to the earth.
If this is life,
I would prefer to roam through my dreams.

Moving freely
Through time and space,
I would rather die forever unborn in my dream
Than surrender with raised arms
To a compromising dawn.

 

Ajith C. Herath

2010 January | Translated by the author, Dawson Preethi and Karin Clark.



Notes:

1. The Knuckles Mountain Range lies in central Sri Lanka north-east of the city of Kandy. The range takes its name from a series of recumbent  folds and peaks in the west of the massif, which resemble the knuckles of a clenched fist when viewed from certain locations in the Kandy and Matale districts.

2. The Vanni is the central area of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. It is considered an integral part of the traditional homeland of the Tamil people. For over a decade, it remained under the control of the Tamil liberation fighters who ran a parallel administration. Eventually, the Sri Lankan government troops who pursued a scorched earth policy gained control over the entire Vanni in 2009 after massacring tens of thousands of Tamil civilians and completely destroying entire villages.

3. Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the place where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before his crucifixion.

4. Parileiya Jungle is described in Buddhist literature as a place, where Buddha chose to live in order to stay away from his own disciples who fell out with each other.

5. Che Guevara was captured and later killed inside a school in La Higuera, a tiny village in Bolivia.

6. The leader of the People’s Liberation Front, Rohana Wijeweera, captured by Sri Lankan government troops for leading the second Sinhala youth uprising in Sri Lanka in 1989, was killed and cremated in Borella Crematorium.  The uprising was crushed by government troops who massacred over 60.000 Sinhala youths in the process.

7. In May 2009, the final battle between the Sri Lankan government troops and the Tamil liberation fighters took place in the area surrounding Nandikadaal Lagoon  in  the north of Sri Lanka. It is widely believed that at least 40.000 Tamil civilians were massacred during this massive military onslaught.

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