A FUNERAL

(The death of King Dutugemunu is a poignant and well-written scene in the Mahavamsa, with everybody’s favorite hero king, who probably half-bankrupted the country thanks to his extensive building projects, being told as ascending into Tusita, one of six Buddhist heavens. But what did everyone else feel? Not everyone cries at funerals, after all….)

The skies were filled once again with ever-drifting clouds that obscured all light from the world once more. The metal-gray was like the bitter taste in the mouths of the people assembled by the now-invisible shadow of the Great Stupa as its domed form stood there in the middle of its construction. But where was the genius who had financed this building spree? Where was the man who would forever worship and respect his foe, the foe who battled him and the House of Magama since his great father’s days? Where was the hero now?

His eyes were clouded.

His ears were now blocked up as they strained to take in the sonorous chanting in the background.

The heroic, broad chest heaved heavily up and down, as if grasping the sweetness of the air around him for the final time before passing into final oblivion.

The chariots of Tusita were fast approaching.

The dull aura hung above the world as he lay on his bed. The linen sheets, the silken pillowcase, the gem-inlaid necklaces and bracelets from South India, the ebony frame of the bed, carved with its Makaras and Gajasinghas; no richness, no softness, could heal him. Five hundred figures stood, or sat, chanting old Buddhist verses, the same verses they’d learned in the halls of the monasteries he’s made for them. He had asked them to follow him on his wild crusade across rugged terrain. The Sangha of Rohana, the Sangha of Rajarata, the whole Sangha of Lanka, had broken their rules when they took part in this escapade. If only he could hear them! The unwise silently cursed. The wise hung their heads and chanted. What more could they do? It was their job, the job of all five hundred of them.

 

But there were things that they would never understand.

He had promised them freedom from the alien and his powerful grip. The hero had told them that his life’s mission would be to be the benefactor of the Brotherhood. But words, words they had been! Had he just built those monuments for them, the mighty Maricchavattiya among all other works just to look good in their eyes?

But then he had used them, hadn’t he…?

 

A few young, treacherous bhikkus wondered and pondered upon this through their chants, their piercing, scrutinizing hawkish eyes on the passing hero. Still, the clouds drew further in. It was like the great man’s reign should be eclipsed forever.A mighty, fleecy giant passed overhead as its formless bulk tried to shut out the last fragments of light that might touch the king’s glassy eyes. And this giant would roar, thunder booming from west to east, and the gods would shed tears as they reflected upon his rule. But could the gods look into his mind, powerful as they were? He could be born among them one day, a young, critical monk mused; they would know the truth. The Sangha would never be the same again with his passing.

 

http://writtenforreconciliation.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-funeral.htm

 

FOR JAFFNA

(Jaffna, at the extreme north of Sri Lanka, once used to be hell on earth for those who lived there. Now, however, the rebuilding is going on slowly, but still there’s a lot of gaps that we need to fill. Because just as you rebuild it, you need to keep it rebuilt for a long, long time. Granted, my poetry is terrible, but I wanted this to be out.)

 

 

 

Oh Jaffna,  plains once deep in sorrow and blood

Evenings cool, and life now coming back home.

Pretty town; Nallur Temple, red-gold, ah

Kiss the skies, great edifice, for just one

Am I who walks within thy mighty shade.

A silent prayer escapes our hearts now,

Heads turning to the market square;

Towards man and adaptation.

 

Oh Sarasvati, goddess beside the hall of books!

Sacrifices made within your name.

But where was your strong arm when we needed you?

When flames and thunder struck from the depths of hell,

Licking your hall like raptorial tongues,

You sat, you smiled, you hoped…

 

Against all odds we prayed to you,

Against it all we fought for the mother.

The beast is purged now from your womb,

Sarasvati, please sit no more! For within the books,

That love and the knowledge,

Purest wisdom of all past eons.

Fill our hearts with Nirvana’s light!

 

Make our mother everlasting

Let her love us till all time ends!

The fallen giant

(Here is a work based off an in-class exercise at Write to Reconcile’s Jaffna Workshop. This is a long description of one of the terrifying metal monsters that plagued the north during the war…)  
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The clouds parted once more as the sun’s rays tore through, illuminating the dust-choked salt pans which I was traversing alone. Here, hell had been unleashed a thousand times, as I’d met souls who wished their life of prosperity, their life of brightness, was forever. I’d met those who thought love was forever, who’d wished to lie forever beside the ones they always wanted.

But of course, it was never so.

Love and hate, fire and ice, heaven and hell are all but passing.

Once on that plain, I saw a great harbinger of death. A steel behemoth from the depths of the abyss, whose solid dull flanks were now spotted, gutted and scarred by heaven’s purest flames. The monster’s roars had once echoed across the plains like thunder as it shot fire at its helpless prey. All men of flesh and blood, the world around it and the concrete jungle, had simply fallen before its hulking mass and deadly breath. The superpredator once scanned the horizon for miles, long head and turret swiveling like the eyes of a stalking chameleon, tongue at the ready. Once its prey was within its sights, its flames burst forth, cratering the soil around it and tearing those organisms around it into mere burned corpses. As I neared the dead monster, I felt its soul pulsing through mine.

The screams and death-throes of its prey and of the other demonic creations like itself, all flooded my mind as I meditated upon the brutality that once occurred upon this plain.

For was this dry northern scrub not where men and their metal beasts had wrought death upon each other?

But the harder I stared at that quiet, windless world, I sighed.

The reign of the beast was not forever.

The angels had come, and its soul was taken from it, as fire from the skies shot down hell’s blazing breath. The wheeled metal reaper was thus no more, gone in a flash, dying roars flying across this ancient plain. Now, its innards lay disorganized around it, rusted by water. Heaven’s final cleansing was when God wept at the sight of its victims after all.

And even that would not last forever.

Just like that changeable sky. Clouds were coming in, and another cleansing of tears upon the earth would be underway. Yet, the deadly colossus still stayed as the earth reclaimed his hulking body slowly. Slowly, surely, back to the mother he came from.