Gravity - poems by afdhel aziz

Someone asks me, casual dinner party jest
as the crab claws are cleared away
"So will you die for your country" 
Surprised, I counter
"Surely it is better to live for it?"

Flippant, my glib mouth fires back
But later, the drive home I think
of patriots, priests, and politicians

Would I be the first to the front
With my finger on the trigger
Or would I move to another land 
and nurse the memory with my 

television dinner, 
the channels flickering
while I think of the beaches and winds
I left behind ?

love is sacrifice 
but which comes first 
which comes fierce 
my country or me ?

n "Patriot "

I hate this ash grey town
crumbling around me 
yellow halogen lights sickly
casting their glow on the street
where I stand waiting for a bus
to take me to my centrally heated 
hermits cell where I sit and look 
at the picture tucked into the mirror
above the sink where I brush my teeth
every morning , looking at the buildings
bathed in tropical sun, skies that
reign a kingdom bounded by horizons
where I am someone not nobody
where I am more than just 
another brown face breathing cold
air wreathing around my mouth

this is not like nuwara eliya at all 
I cannot retreat to the heat 
cannot plunge into my Indian Ocean
and float on an  inner tube
I will wake up to the sound of a bell
and the light will be washed out
and the red of the walls will remind me
that I have changed islands 
and assumed my new secret identity
my mouth twisting into different shapes
feeling for the light switch that will
flicker this morning into being .

"This is not Nuwara Eliya"
Sri Lanka , 6th May 1997

A boy walking in a tuxedo
down the heat of the road
against the jade green of paddy

Forever the trees, shading the road 

An old woman who turns 
and grins madly , toothless
A village saint in exile

Forever the trees, shading the road

The elephant , feet burning on the tar
Walking, patiently, waiting
For the day when it can
sink into the waters of the river again

Forever the trees, shading the road

A funeral, white sheet unwinding
endlessly, a carpet on which 
to ascend to heaven

Forever the trees, shading the road

These things will remain forever
Breaks in time
gates into the backbeyond


n "Forever the Trees"
n Dambulla, May 1997
Two boys lying
on fishing nets at noon
one asleep, 
caught in the web of his dreams
while the other
forms a telescope with
his fingers , looking at 
the sky outside the house

One dreaming of the sea
the other of defying gravity
the end is the same

water and air will be 
the accomplices to flight
Away from reality 
into the mind's halflight

when Prospero strides in 
nets draped around his
aged shoulders, barefoot
looking for his Ariel 

who will rise to the lure ?

n "Prospero and Ariel"
n After Kevin Clogstouns photographs
n july 10th 1997

Neruda dreamt 
of roses in the arbour
temple flowers alight on 
the white verandah

while elephants roamed the city at night
while the geckoes hung from sweating ceiling
while the chirp of crickets was a steady hum
the machinery of the forest outside
while bats soared through weeping trees
Neruda dreamt

Neruda dreams
of palaces and poets, star people
who travelled to distant lands
in times the sands have forgotten

Neruda dreams 
of the taste of cinnamon, passion 
deep and hot in the mouth

He dreams of dark secrets 
inked on darker flesh
waiting to be uncovered
by the hand of a rhymer

A caress.... less.

While Neruda dreams
Strange lands come to life
Stick figures with the faces of monkeys
ride through the sky
carry half a mountain

carefully.... carefully

When Neruda dreams
the spirits flee the house of his sleep
muttering about the sun
staring at the retreating moon
wandering if exile is the only option

When Neruda dreams
(quand il dort)
the garden shall grow noiselessly
lush in the tropical heat
fertile brown earth clasping 
green shoots deep in it's heart

When Neruda dreams
the fish fly to the moon 
and sing "Claire de lune"
in their best singing voices

Neruda's dreams , contain 
mermaids, scholars, slaves, armies
mountaies, lakes, rivers , roses
crossed in an instant of dreamtime

When Neruda dreams 
words flow from the pen of his mind
onto the blank page
ending it's emptiness
beginning the dance.....

"When Neruda Dreams"
July 17th 1997 

Slanted faces
		slanted rain

neon heaven

the art of the hustle
		forever perfected

On sale now
	last day sale
		buy now free

rope coils

		on star ferry deck

graffiti under

		flourescent streetlight

red flags soaked

		by July rain

mist on the peaks

		grey harbour

happy racetrack

		seven dragons sleep

on the streets

		of Hong Kong

'Seven Dragons'

There is great sadness 
in this July night
the crash of sea surf
the echo of the late train 

wisps of cumulus nimbus
a muslim moon in the east
under the roofs of houses
sleeps the lonely beast 

sweltering in the humid song
waiting for the dawn
when it will open it's mouth 
and give a ferocious yawn

then the fear shall spring
then the hate will rise
the light of intolerance 
comes to it's eyes

then the mobs shall run 
then the fires will burn 
the innocent will stand helpless
nowhere to turn

And I will drive through
the dry burning streets
a looter on his knees
while a policeman beats

And I will look for my mother
in a hustling crowd
and she will call my name
in  a voice that is loud

And the sirens will wail
long into the night
and I will hold my pillow
a little more tight

And my neighbours will run
under cover of dark
to the back of the house
lit only by a spark

And the phones will ring
flat voices will say
Don't hide them there
We know anyway

And the children will sleep
uneasy in their beds
harsh voices in their ears
flames in their heads

This is the land 
of karma and retribution
what goes around 
comes around
again and again 

n "1983"
n AUGUST 6TH 1997 	

I hate funerals, the
shovelled earth hitting
the wooden lid

bitter sky overcast with rain
or fierce afternoon heat
as the sweat clings to my
good shirt

While pious men praise you to 
the skies with their honest lies
As I gaze at the rest of your
friends on this tired earth

The cliches we murmur as we
approach the ones you left behind
the dry palms we shake
as the hollow words we make

Why can't we celebrate your life not your death ?

Why can't we remember 
the way you  smiled, you laughed
the way you loved

Faded flowers on fresh earth
as the soil folds you in 
it's cold embrace

It's not even a proper goodbye
this one way street, things
left unspoken, confidences unbroken

In your grave , as the earthworms
start their perpetual dance
do you too mourn our loss ?


Remember me for the man I was
loud and confident inside
Remember me for the way Iived
with love, laughter and pride

When I no longer rattle through
this cosmos with my mouth 
Let the memories linger
Let the reminisces come out

Do not forget our secrets shared
Do not forget the tales I told
Keep safe the days gone by
When we were young, wild and bold

I will not slip the way we 
danced upon this green earth
I will see you in your next life
I will see you in my next birth

n "Remember"

August 14th

		August 14th 

let me take a long last look
at this city by the sea
that has been my home, my heart
for decades longer than time

from the tall ships in the harbour
to the kites flying high on the green
the things left unloved
the things left unseen

from the peach skies
over the rooftops of my neighbourhood
to the dark streets at night
lit by the january moon

from the temples, faces jostling
to the spare lines of the mosque
to  the fullness of the dagoba
to the faces we have lost

the beggars on the street
their faces outstretched in belief
the saviour has lost his faith
and hope has been lost to a tbief

some things have never changed
some things never will
I will see the afternoon sun
and the monsoon rain

alone at night as I drive
through your lonely avenues
the blood that has been spilt fades
choices that you will never chose

the new towers , sons of your soil'
rising like the warriors they are
the slums remain around the corner
never too near, never too far

when the building shudders
with the sound of the commuter train
I will remember my sweet town
and I will return again....

"Blues for Colombo"