Two Poems by Indran Amirthanayagam

BOMB 33 Fall 1990
033 Fall 1990

Pagan Love Song

‘We got a call a few minutes ago. Pappa has died,
quietly in sleep. He received the last rites.’

‘Come with me where moonbeams
Light Tahitian skies,
And the starlit waters
Linger in your eyes.

Native hills are calling
To them we belong,
And we’ll cheer each other
With a pagan love song.’

Time is still,
A faint radio sound,
A voice speaks still.

A man has died on an island
Far away across many oceans.
Swoosh of a rumbling engine,
An arrow in the eye,
A quivering tree, lightning stone!

‘Come in my son.
Are you going to be a great man?
A great man must write well,
He must command with his pen.’

‘Native hills are calling
To them we belong,
And we’ll cheer each other
With a pagan love song.’

Behold!   A man has died on an island
                Far away across many oceans.

Time is still.
The brain is still.
The bowel is still.
The feet are still.
The spine is still.

Long droning sound, night sweeping truck
brushes the burnished mind still,
Time is still, still
White heat pierces the granite vase,
the mantelpiece clock, the room.

But the grand old man is dead, oh Lord,
The grand old man is dead.
You may try to sing oh Lord,
but the grand old man is dead.

The grand old man is dead, oh Lord
The grand old man is dead,
The blades of grass have turned up their heads,
but the grand old man is dead, is dead.

Haunted by shadows,
He drags his feet to a shuffling beat,
Out of time, a few scratches on the tile
that sing in the back verandah.

To tread softly in slippers across many rooms,
To tread softly in slippers out of the house
into the blazing Sun.
To crack the gravel on a determined jaunt,
Up the street, spectacles heavy on the nose.

Walking past the appearances of things,
lest we see a hole in the ground,
a black tree, and a crow.

Walking past embassies and things,
and mini motorbikes with white shirts
and black trousers screaming for lunch,
Betel running red down dark lips.

Come back, come back whispered the wind.
Come back, come back
said the young man with hand outstretched.
Come back, come back
Premila is waiting in the Dawn.
The palmyrah sways in the white Jaffna sun,
Come back, come back
The hawkers are selling roti on Galle Face Green. 

Come back, come back the little boy leads
the hunting trip in the long grass.
’Pappa, the white snake has bitten the mongoose,
The mongoose needs his leaf.’
Come back, come back come back.

‘Come with me where moonbeams
Light Tahitian skies,
And the starlit waters
Linger in your eyes.

Native hills are calling
To them we belong.
And we’ll cheer each other
With a pagan love song.’

 

The Empire of Meat

Out in fresh air on fresh paper
after breakfast a draught of milk
       a handsome sum of wheat
strolling on England’s coast
a strong boy from the East

a hen in Cornwall killed
in the morning by land’s end
and stuffed and saluted
under the low beams
of the Tudor house
at a glorious feast—

The Meat Eaters—

’Such an exquisite bird
eaten from the Southern earth,
blooded well and strong

melted like a puff of cumulus
through domastic bellows pumped
and pulped on the great flag of our tongue,

Conquering what do you say, what:
cabbages and cauliflower,
radishes and tomatoes,
yes, throw the vegetables into the pit,
let’s make the stew
good and red and frothy’—

The Empire            a steam bath
after games,          a potted hen washed
                              down with ale
in the palmy Cornish evenings.

Come, Hindoo, enjoy
flank of Mogul,
Prime Raj Rib.

Indran Amirthanayagam is a Sri Lankan-born poet and journalist. His poems have appeared in various journals, including Massachussetts Review, The Literary Review, and Hanging Loose. He directs the Word of Mouth reading series and served as an editor off the upcoming “Portable Lower East Side” issue on Asian Writing New York.

Sri Lankan Poetry by Indran Amirthanayagam
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033 Fall 1990