Monday, May 4, 2015


by Kanya D'Almeida and Quincy Saul, January 2015 

Yalpanam, land of music on the lyre
Like ficus vines that find a bark and cling,
Jaffna, burning on the nation's pyre,
A desperate, wise and determined thing.

To color the soil this crimson-red clay –
Where deep red earth is deep as deep blue sea –
Just how many lives did they have to slay
Where crickets sing beneath the banyan tree?

Where recent history has disappeared,
Buried, flattened, scattered, whispered, feared,
The present has passed, the future is now,
Answered in the eyes of a branded cow.

When a jute rope connects your neck to your hoofs
Even the act of escape is a noose.
Where ruins old and new with flowers bloom,
Where causes false and true in shadows loom.

Where every scene was witness to a death,
Where heat and breeze and beauty catch your breath, 
In a bottomless well, echoing sobs,
In a single temple, a hundred gods.

Silences heavy, expectant and still,
Where gods have danced for aeons in the skies,
Lush grapevines bend to a bent farmer's will
Where trees have stood for centuries and grown wise.

Not curiosity shining in the eyes
Where bulletholes and beauty strangely swirl,
More a quick sizing up of deceit and lies,
Where freedom's hands around a kathi curl.

Seas and trees they preserved, but dreams they stole
Where cultures grow from land in fields of grain,
Holy and haunted, sacred and profane,
Ravaged yet untouched, destroyed yet whole.

Echoes of Jaffna

by Quincy Saul, January 2015

A distant drum, and a rooster, in the night,
The deep raindrop of a tabla, and a buzzing beetle,
Sing together a vision of Jaffna.
The wide skies over elephant pass
Resonate with thousands of years
Of bondage and bravery,
Migration and invasion,
War and counter-war,
Peace and counter-peace.
Villages of survival,
Full of crows and pockmarked empty buildings
Dance together a vision of Jaffna
Which the wide world will never see.
Empty lands – flat, vacant, crying their erasure to the empty skies,
They too resonate, they echo, they resound
With stories the wide world will never hear.
Yet their emptiness outweighs all the concrete:
Vacuum becomes plenum
And emptiness outweighs extinction.

The music in a passing car,
Passing on a road that is also just passing through
Sings of modernity and progress and development,
While packs of dogs howl to the stars
With the echoes of forsaken dreams,
With the echoes of betrayed causes,
With the echoes of unfulfilled faith.
There is a silence in the Jaffna night
Which is full of ghosts.
The distant drum whispers, or it echoes,
A foreboding promise:
That the ghosts are more alive than the concrete,
That unseen visions
And unheard stories
Will always,
In merciless anonymity,


by Quincy Saul, January 2015

Temple of the growing rock!
Kingdom of dead coral!
As beautiful as its breeze,
As the mane over the eyes of its wild ponies.
Where on a small dirt lane
I met the eyes of an old man, with a cloth around his waist and a wooden stick in his hands.
Flabby in my hat and clothes and trishaw, I felt like a disgrace and a fraud.
On that same dirt lane, later on,
We saw a living corpse,
Beaten, broken, scarred, but standing, looking at us:
This pony seared a symbol in my mind forever:
The horror and the reality of war.

Hundreds of haunted houses.
Coral walls that are taken down for parties
And rebuilt again after.
Beaches that flare the flames of dead coral into the bottomless blue.

Here is a beauty which humans made bleak,
Yet bleakness and beauty become each other:
Almost everything is in ruins, but
The remains are showered with flowers --
Bright pink blossoms are scattered like so much sand,
Splashed with abandon
On beds of green, draped over
The coral and concrete skeletons,
Which stand like garlanded sentinels to the unknown.

A lone baobob stares out to sea,
Older than everything else except the rock,
Bearing with massive magnanimity the scars of human contact,
Home to thousands of generations of creatures.

And the growing rock –
What if it were the most sacred site on all six continents?
Its anonymity suggests to me that this is the case.
Is it a cocoon, or a chrysalis?
Does its nature reveal ours?

The growing rock and its temple, called Delft,
As flat as its great plains of thin green grass
As gnarled as the roots of its ficus forests,
As beautiful as all the blues of its many-striped sea,
As pitiful as the branded cow which wanders,
Neck tied to its foreleg,
As tragic as the dead cormorant on the side of the road
Outside the airy, empty hospital,
In front of the ruins of a Dutch fort, and somewhere
In the mix of incredible coal and indelible colonialism,
Between flowers and war,
There is something to be rediscovered:

In the superior eyes of an old man,
In the mystery of a wild pony,
In slow strangling swarms of ficus,
In the wary innocence of children born after the war,
In the new words for tree and for spider
Which we were taught by one such child,
On the remains of an ancient temple,
In the shade of a giant tree,
In the wind of a saphire ocean,
Among the dance and play of butterflies,
Whose flight seems clumsy
Because our eyes are too slow to see such elegance,
Beneath the solitary soaring
Of Brahminy kites,
And in the bright and constant singing
Of a small bird flying at great height,
In the exuberance, the full bodied expression
Of its song and dance
It is there!
Find it for yourself in the growing rock,
In the blossoming ruins.

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