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 " Sometimes 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 Forever....... 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 escape 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.... ......no 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.... ......so 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 overhead 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 ? -"Funerals" 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"