Sri Lankan Landscapes
Isle of Ballads . . . .
By Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe
Of the hundred different countries here,
we will finally be claimed by one nation.
And will be held accountable citizens
within its imagined boundaries,
not by birth or by choice, but by its constant approximation
that would have caused it to enter our bones,
shaped a particular tautness of skin,
and ensured a definite taste on the tongue; rancid, hot, bitter;
that the other nations, in the end, failed to overpower.
For now, there are the myriad landscapes of the different countries here.
The country of the brittle, ochre earth – a dry zone – parched by drought,
desecrated by bigotry, hallowed by praying.
The country with a city giving way to thoughtless, spiritless,
concrete form and face and irreconcilable contrasts:
of gracious gardens, slum-squalor, cool verandahs.
The many countries of different minds that lift the senses,
make the heart sing with their sensibility in unexpected places:
of tales of diverse communities, food shared, spices fused, blood mingled.
Of lives of those steeped in an ethos neither
arrogant nor prejudiced,
but only steadied by the certainty
The countries of gentle intelligence:
of personal weaknesses and contradictions
that are judged as error – devastating, damaging, but distilled by time
into aspects of our comedy of existence
which will destroy us but yet redeem us for our humanness.
But the country that will claim us will be none of these.
The country that will claim us
will be the one of images that leave the mind white,
unable to comprehend, not wanting to understand or feel.
This is the country of the family hacked in cold blood for a house,
of the pilgrims murdered as they kneel in prayer under
the shade of an ancient tree,
of the hundreds of people driven from a city
for a difference of birth, an extra syllable to a name,
of governments that twist history and passions
to justify means to an end
that will lead only to
beginnings of things more horrific.
This country will claim us.
Its smell of burning will overpower a lifetime of love
for all the other nations that sustained our spirit here.
This place will claim us and break every bone every
sense every hope until we are left with no feeling no thought.
But we cannot leave, cannot break away
for the love of the other countries that hold us here.
And, so, watch our selves appropriated slowly
by this final country against our will:
against the power of all that we do to reassemble it.
Ramya is an award winning writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been published locally and internationally. Her work has been recognized at many leading international literary festivals and competitions.