The way I’m sitting,

the robe,

the cold,

the bowl being off-centre on the table.

The bladder- it’s always half full, half empty,

half full, I forget.

The cat’s whiskers being glorious,

the water boiling,

the long dust of drafting all this on the keys again.

The tingles on my back,

the unwatered plant- it looks like a wretched desert,

the dry patch on the back of my throat,

the water being too hot.


The preoccupation with how often I urinate,

the post-urination chill up the spine.

The palm trees against the pale pink sky being too good to not photograph-

being too cliche to photograph, on the other hand.

How the page absorbs ink making blotches marking my hesitations.

Him, sleeping.

The loneliness flickering in the light bulbs of the four a.m. train, 

and the racket that it makes.

The situation of the world in general. A distant, worn out panic.

The horror of five a.m. and them waking up, to this, to make this.

This whole thing of being.



to look away from this thing-

this thing I don’t interrogate for honest words, 

this thing I don’t want to see.

The fear of me,




Image source unknown


To the Prostitute’s man by the Marine Drive Supermarket

Five forty am:

I watched you watch her

try to scrape the last chance of last night

before it faded fast into the sunlight.

– with an old man in a clean sarong

and a shirt ironed to a crispness

-that ratted a wife back home.


Although while scanning her shape through the skirt,

he licked his lips,

he was the type who kept his nose too clean

to go behind the Keells supermarket with her kind;

Besides it was getting too bright to hide.


She came back to you defeated.




They say you both would do anything

for a shot of heroin,

and that it was all your doing.

Is that true?


Did you ever love her?

Before the hell holes, strangers’ invasion and teeth rot,

was she ever beautiful?

I hear her curse you, shrilling the night

but in the morning she is still around

in the thick of your shit fight.


What is she holding on to in you?

– is it something sad and sentimental like

the music trapped between the dust on a forgotten wedding bouquet?

– or is it something logical like

the last thread of convention?

– or something dignified like

’till death do us part’?

– or is it just reason lost in the wind

somewhere in the mundane plains of habit?





Seven am:

Sunday morning

as Colombo lay dry sleeping,

and hungover cars were leaving

with leftovers of Saturday night and Pillawoos,

I saw you again.


Standing in a daze of junk

with one palm outstretched to the ocean,

it looked as if you were blessing

the great, big sea of salty tears.


Was that for her?


Boy on East 5th Street (4th of July), 1984.

Image – Ken Schles – Boy in the East 5th Street at the height of heroin, 1984


The containing of it all


I had to hold still

for if I were to spin,

what would shower out of my robe are


stars, stars.



Image by Maïmouna Guerresi


Scream boys, scream 

The train was pulling to Kandy, stopping at every insignificant town uphill.

At each tunnel the boys would hang their lungs out the windows like paper bags, and scream.


Two compartments downwind, I wonder what they look like;

the shrill voice between the hoarse ones must have a face like mine-

angled, hard-pointed against things that could potentially hurt.

The others must have round eyes polished with wicked boyishness

like the severe gleam in kitten eyes – recklessly pointless;

challenging every wise old man word that history ever recorded.

Their time, their best cast out the window, over the edge of substance, dipping dangerously into the meaningless

– just like that, deliciously luxurious.


I remember an old March,

maybe nineteen ninety nine’s;

We snuck out of math and rode the school garbage cart in rounds

– in glorious, mindless circles all around the clock’s noon turn.

Even the sun and the trees shone and shook frivolous.


But at some point, the grand end of it all creeps up your throat, into your head;

through the body aches, skin beginning to sag or the white wisdom threads

you hear earth’s sad moaning mortal quakes.

So, you slowly stop breathing for the fear of tipping over the edge.

And happiness, what can it do? It’s like that person everyone talks about, but in bed you find them overrated and drunk.


Isn’t it a strange thing that, to really relish in something, you mustn’t actually love it?

Because the fear of death can suffocate your nerve ends from celebrating.


They scream again, the young fucks.


So, scream boys, scream

because immortality is a now or never thing.

Soon, you’ll be too heavy to hang so loose out in the wind,

and your shoulders will be crack down  with the weight of Kandy city

to scream your throat dry to just tease the world’s meaning.

Scream boys scream;

scream loud, scream now.


Image – Joseph Ball


Separation: day two


the layers are peeling off

and I look more like

my preferably-avoided side

in photographs.


You probably don’t know

how easy it is for me to resort

to a convenient moral code

based on the fact that nothing matters at all

in the end.


Especially when,

there isn’t someone worthwhile to notice

how I can be spotlessly part of all this

weight to deliver better than our body dust-

like you.  


So, can you send me a picture

from the faraway?

So I can reaffirm reasons and better days.

It’s important. I’m fading.

I hope you remain.


Image - Laurent Van Assche

Image – Laurent Van Assche




Post women’s day

The registrar said

that it’s better for a man

to sign as my witness;


well…, he’s a man.


So as father puffed his sweet chest

and strutted to shake wrists,

I saw you shuffle to fish

the nice pen

out of your bag.


You nodded and smiled ‘yes’

like every good woman;

but did your heart crumple?

I couldn’t really tell –

am I overthinking again Ma?


You held on to the signed documents

with a grip as certain as earth,

faithful not to let me fall.

It ate my heart up

in spite of the fuss around us all.


Although it shrivelled me ugly

in my fat, florid dress,

you never felt as lovely

as you did when you side-witnessed

my wedding day Ma.  



Image- Postcard. Neurdein et Cie. Paris, France, early 20th century. Paper, printed. Collection of Yeshiva University Museum (2006.232).




To the rich church girl in Colombo

I like you better drunk

because your mother’s wrapping comes undone

and the lines from the book zoom out of focus.

You stop looking around for someone

to notice that you’re having fun- so, it’s really not as boring.


I know why your shoulders droop

between the laughter and that you

hear the silence in the sky in secret moments.

But, the wine makes it easier

to drown that damn quietness and forget what you know better.


So drink away Laila,

you’re better off drunk sweetheart,

because then you can blame all the questions on wine;

and on the fact that this particular one was

actually really nice.


You swore that it was all about

bringing there poor people around

to the idea of love, peace and the rest…

But, we’re both old enough to know that only dust is really pure

and that money is what religion makes the best.


Yes, it’s easier to hand your pearl away

to something that you learn to live,

because your mother said it is the case.

Hey, after all, family is everything,

the one thing you should never ditch, right?


Right. Drink some more wine.

Inheritance is a funny thing;

it gives you a person to exist in

and comes funded with a legacy

that you can hold up as high as a head.


Maybe, just maybe,

the price of your pearl is worth it,

because now

money can never scare you and dust can never touch you-

it’s a pretty sweet place to call home.


I want to buy a sunset;

you want to rent a whirlwind;

so, whether I’m right or wrong,

and justice lives in the sky or not,

we’re all set for tears and dusty bones.


So I won’t stop looking,

and you shouldn’t stop drinking,

because whirlwinds or sunsets, don’t come cheap.

You know, Laila

you’re not the worst thing.    



Image – Jean Christian Rostagni