Nallur by Jean Arasanayagam

BOMB 40 Summer 1992
040 Summer 1992

It’s there,

         beneath the fallen fronds, dry crackling
piles of broken twigs abandoned wells of brackish
water lonely dunes

              it’s there
the shadows of long bodies shrunk in death
the leeching sun has drunk their blood and
bloated swells among the piling clouds

              it’s there,


                               smell it in the air

its odour rank with sun and thickening blood
mingling with fragrance from the frothy toddy
pots mingling like lolling heads from
blackened gibbets,

              it’s there

                        amid the clangour of

the temple bells, the clapping hands, the
brassy clash of cymbals,

              the zing of bullets
              cries of death
              drowned in the roar
              of voices calling Skanda
              by his thousand names
              Murugan, Kartikkeya
              Arumugam … …

“We pray, we cry, we clamour
oh Sri Kumaran, be not like the god
who does not hear, deaf Sandesveran.”

Thirtham now no longer nectar of the gods
brims over but is bitter, bitter,
and at the entrance to Nallur
the silent guns are trained
upon a faceless terror


         the landscape changes
the temples by the shore are smoking
ruins charred stone blackened,
on empty roads are strewn

the debris of warfare,
stained discarded dressings
burnt out abandoned vehicles
a trail of blood
soon mopped up by the thirsty sun

Turned away, from bloody skirmishes
of humankind, the gods are blinded
by the rain of bullets,
six faced Arumugam
all twelve eyes
close in darkness

The land is empty now
the pitted limestone
invaded by the sea
drowns, vanishes,
waves of rust swell and billow
beating into hollow caves and burial urns
filled with the ash of bodies
cremated by the fire of bullets.

Jean Arasanayagam is a lecturer in English at the Government Teachers’ College, Peradeniya. She has published several volumes of poetry, and her work is well known in Sri Lanka.

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Originally published in

BOMB 40, Summer 1992

Featuring interviews with Reno, Derek Walcott, Neal Jimenez & Eric Stoltz, George Condo, Louis Kahn, Camille Billops, Darius James, Michael Jenkins, and Joe Mantello.

Read the issue
040 Summer 1992