SHIRANI RAJAPAKSE

Taken for Granted

I drink straight from the tap
and mull over Fishman’s assumption;
T –Rex may have sampled

the same. A billion years ago,
a million miles away sitting in my
kitchen watching it flow out,

out and fall into the jug like the river
diverted in the last century. It helped them
live, those folks over there

where life was hard, walking in the sun,
staring up at blue skies for rains that sometimes
forgot to fall. Now their crops grow tall

and proud. But there’s danger
in the waters hidden deep within the earth
a few towns away. I heard someone say

it’s laced with poison. Deep water
wells in dry zones where no liquid flows
on land for the heat; evaporated,

returned to the clouds. They’re fighting
for it in another country, too far
for me to bother yet it’s women that suffer

and I read on. They have to find water
for their families, guard it with their lives
while men loiter on street corners

looking for work. Women
toil across the world. Trudging long
distances on burning sands to get to wells

in the middle of deserts. Old and young
balancing pots; on their heads, in their arms,
resting on hips they sway in the wind.

But risk is not along the way.
Fending off wild beasts coming to sport at
waterholes – men claiming it’s their right

to demand. Struggling to stay alive, retain
their dignity they return every day. Danger
lurks in strange places.

Children die in other places. Dried up,
their bones sticking out like twigs wrapped
in cloth. Water tastes like wine,

precious too, but stale wine is thrown
away in some places. Rains are lost to oceans,
I ponder as the jug at the tap overflows.

The Road to Over There

Early morning sun stretches lazy
fingers and lights up on rain soaked leaves

washed clean of yesterdays
dirt. Branches

bend and tree trunks heave
with the weight of monsoonal deluge.

Flecks of gold, silver
glisten on emerald like tinsel flickering on either

side of the road
as you yawn your way up the hill

to Haputale. I listen
mesmerized by the picture you paint

with the colours of words
of a memory

long ago. Trees rise up in front of me, opening
out to reveal a road grey and long

winding its way to wherever
roads go these days.

Early morning smells
of fresh leaves mingles in the air

as birds open their eyes
and wonder if its time yet for their daily show.

I float above on silent wings
borrowed from Icarus

to touch the trees swaying in the breeze, whisper
secrets with the leaves as sunlight

warms everything around drying up the
remnants of the nights frolic.

Unwanted Visitors

Voices rose inside your head
cutting me off. I was of no consequence
in the scheme

of things. They ruled.
I was left out.
Speaking to you every day,

acquainting you with what you
didn’t know, hadn’t heard of before. You
threw my words out.

Rejected
like an old rug that’s of no
use no more. The voices

grew strong taking over and you believed.
One day they moved in
while I was away

and refused to leave
growing stronger
by the minute as you sat helpless

and listened to their chatter.
When will this end and you return to me,
or is that not willed,

something we cannot
talk about anymore? I am here now,
flung away in the corner,

unwanted, but waiting,
helpless as your fears rise and the
voices take over completely.

Shirani Rajapakse is a Sri Lankan poet and author. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contestshirani 2013. Her collection of short stories, Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Shirani’s work appears in, Cyclamens & Swords, The Linnet’s Wings, Channels, Spark, Berfrois, Poets Basement, Asian Cha, Earthen Lamp Journal, Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry Review, About Place Journal, Skylight 47, The Smoking Poet, New Verse News, The Occupy Poetry Project and anthologies Poems for Freedom, Voices Israel Poetry Anthology 2012, Song of Sahel, Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology, World Healing World Peace and Every Child Is Entitled to Innocence. She blogs rather infrequently at http://shiranirajapakse.wordpress.com.