To a Sinhalese Girl

R Cheran

You have heard
we come from far away,
beyond the horizon
where bullets are sown
in fields
not grain,
where plush houses abound
and terrorists breed;
your surprise
at meeting me
an ordinary man,
will soon fade from you
and your friends.

On the banks of Palaavi
now the colour of muddied sand;
yet another
as the clouds
spread the blanket of shade
on the muddied water;
the canopy of the moon
finely embroidered
to make the water glitter;
seated on the ghat,
I listen
to the melody
of your Sinhala songs
and my heart melts.

Once in the past,
A boy then,
at the Maho station
while waiting with my father
for the train,
walking along the tracks
at midnight
in low tones
a lullaby wafted
The child’s sniffles
and the lilting song
that night
pierced my heart;
I was saddened.

A gentle grief
surrounds me

Till end of July
a gusty wind;
in the blowing wind
the ponnochchi flowers
shed their petals;
the long-feathered peacock
as its step falters;
from relishing these sights
with a smile,
do our languages
separate us?

To please you,
I cannot even
pluck a feather from
the peacock for you;
in the early evening
on the grassy plain
under a full moon
in spite of your wish
I couldn’t accompany you.

Your eyes will not forget
these mild disappointments;
and I could not forget
your gentle love.
Without strangling nature
we let the flowers bloom
the grass grow,
we left.

You to the south
me going north,
in the dawn
when from the mountains
from above the trees
a gentle breeze
when brushing your teeth
while meandering
in the midst of your work
seeking to reclaim
the city
you will remember
Our brief encounter.

Tell your people,
here too
the flowers bloom
the grass grows
and birds fly.


Wilting Laughter, Three Tamil Poets, R Cheran, VIS Jayapalan, Puthuvai Ratnathurai, edited and translated by Chelva Kanaganayakam, TSAR books, Toronto , 2009.

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