Shit Happens in Colombo

Colombo

Where VIPs have road escorts,
As do the politicians; a different kind
Here though, that with a blue pill,
Makes everything look larger by volume.
And there is nothing undemocratic here.
Even the dignitaries, with
Well-ironed coats and ties, walking to a cafe
During the noon lunch break,
Are greeted by falling cluster bombs
Dropped by the ever present crows.
And meanwhile in the Colombo bus stand
There are lowly campus students
Squatting on unflushed floor pits
Caught in a moment between
Push and relief. While near the Beira Lake,
There are giant droppings of elephant dung,.
As if a pachyderm had been constipated.
And shit happens here all the time,
And still we rise above the shit,
To be mesmerized by this bomb of a town.
Turning evils, like horns, road rage
And jaywalking, to an outpouring of “holy shit”
Gazing at whitewashed colonial giants
Given a face-lift but no pedicure.

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The Cupboard

Cupboard

My parents have a large cupboard
Next to their dinner table.
It has old lamps, albums, pans and pots,
Unused electrical equipment,
And one or two waffle irons.
These days they are repairing it,
After the termites ate the back boards,
That were holding it all together, like a spine.
Now the cupboard has only
Mahogany doors and spacious compartments,
Like my existence is, in the present, my backbone feebler
Than ever, stuffing my lips, with my wife’s mouth,
Reminding myself that the cupboard
Is filled with all sorts of useful things
That time, even with her termite jaws,
Can never crumble to dust.

The Other M (Mother)

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Your façade is not bullet proof.
It is no ghost town.
A keen observer like your mum
Can see through the cracks,
Your SOS, the finely concealed
Snakes inside your closet. Imperfection
Is always a bitter pill to swallow.

And you send Morse code signals,
How one corner of your lip – the right one –
Is first to smile and you know that
An asymmetrical smile is just
Asking for a landslide of pity. You’re caught
Out through the icing, through the coat of paint
And all you can do is to sit down
On the sofa while your mum plays shrink.

And there’s something about
Mom the psychiatrist. She knows how to make
Some words fit and others stand out.
Like the way she avoids saying the word “Self-pity”
And replaces that with “you’re thinking too much”
Or when she clears doubt and fear
By saying “that child, is a cup of tea”
And sometimes she gives you home remedies
Like a novena for finding your soul mate
And I remember the days when I used
To extract each word in the prayer, of their meaning.
And still I took solace in a Phil Collins song
“You can’t hurry Love” and that song,
Wasn’t that all about mom?

And she will be the only shrink
That makes you a cup of tea or makes some
Waffles on the waffle iron. Waffles have this
Way of cheering you up, like when the crispiness
Breaks on the edges of your teeth and all you can do
Is become mom’s waffle baby. She will tell
You “there’s a girl somewhere out there waiting for you”
And somehow that cheers you up
Like how every gooey romantic Nicholas Sparks adaptation to screen
Makes you an oxytocin dripping prince
Searching for his Cinderella.

And she will prescribe concoctions.
Some herbal Xanax for the anxious mind.
And she will pour you a cup of herbs, as green
As the slimy algae you find on the coastline,
And oh boy, doesn’t that make you feel all sedated.
It’s like mom knows a million ways
To tranquilize you, like how she rocked you
On her lap as an infant, or how she sang you a lullaby,
And now, she is giving you a cup of god knows what
That clears your fogged eye
And your fear-prone mind.

And one day when I marry the woman I love
She will no longer be my therapist.
I will still fondly remember her interventions
How she knew to get the best out of me,
While telling me that I was a marketable franchise.
And I will never forget, how she hoovered out
Words from my mouth, dusted my eyes,
Sewed by broken heart and made me
A man who can resist tempests
And tsunamis alike.

I simply could never hide anything from her.
She knew. Her eyes were crystal balls
That could foresee my trials. She could
Salvage me, fragment by fragment, and renew me
Like a newly tiled floor. And I owed her my life
Not just for an egg and her uterus
But also for appreciating my worth
When I was only unworthy.

And couch time was our routine; “us” time.
And sometimes, I wonder whether
I got into knotty situations just to have her
Stitch back my patchwork together.

Mother simply means the “other M”.

Maker of my biology
Muse to my journeys near and far
And always my boathouse

To mend.