Soldiering On


After 26 years of seeing blood
Spewing out from arteries
They now protest for a few thousand
Rupees folding in their palms
To spit out the scarlet paint of Areca nuts
Made basic with lime

And a sedentary armchair next to a wheel
Chair has a little artefact on which
Betel leaves are kept. Leaves which will never
See a hero’s feet that lay amputated
In the harshest of realities

The story of the betel leaf
Resonates just like the story of the soldier
A leaf of respect and honor chewed
By a soldier who travels in a wheel chair
To protest for a miserly pension that can
Buy some betel leaves and areca nuts

They live through the sable nightmares
And the forgone grunt of a mine
To inhabit a world where they can smile
With lesions in their mouth
Inside a lonely ward in a little town
Called Maharagama

The betel leaf was supposed to embellish
Two feet and held inside open palms
In honored traditions

And not be spewed out as blood.


Author: meandererworld (Dilantha Gunawardana)

Dr Dilantha Gunawardana is a molecular biologist who graduated from the University of Melbourne. He moonlights as a poet. His poems have been accepted/published in Forage, American Journal of Poetry, Kitaab, Eastlit and Ravens Perch. He mixes science with poetry for a living, when what matters is the expression of both DNA and words into something serendipitous. Although an Australian citizen, Dilantha is domiciled in Sri Lanka, his country of birth.

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