Saturday, October 10, 2015

Vavunia is in a bowl. A poem of Dry Zone Sri Lanka

Vavunia is in a bowl
In the bowl are bodies of water
The water is filled with fish
In the fish were sculpted other fish

The sculpted fish had open mouths
And after centuries they looked like spleens or stomachs

Wrenched of meaning because they were sculpted from clay and buried for two thousand years 

The clay gotten from silt
The silt collected from tanks
The tanks at the bottom of the bowl


People come down into the bowl
Here they pray and do business
Here they burn coconuts and incense and garbage
Here fumes from cycles and trucks stay 
even after the people go home to their suburban precincts

The suburban precincts are all called kulam this and kulam that
After bowls of their own
That once collected water
And now are extinct

The bowls were shaped like spleens and stomachs
Open on one end and less open on the other
They were lined with clay
Semi-permeable like cell membranes

They stored and persuaded water
The water went to rice
Nearby water buffalo swamped
And swapped
And gave milk for curd


The curd is yogurt it was made in clay pots made from silt 
Some silt is eaten by crocodiles
says folklore and that's why they eat so seldom
But when they eat it is with big bites
The bowl shakes
And the water in it like jelly

In some places jelly is called cheese
In some places curd is called yogurt
In some places lakes are called wewa
In some places lakes are called kulam

In some places palmyrah grows
Other places kumbuk grows
Other places margosa grows
In some places margosa is called neem

Small girls throw stones with their left arms and hit a dog 50 feet away

Small girls when they are done with the first stone pick up another

Small girls hit the running dog a second time with stones

And a third time as the dog decides not to come back

These girls are our hostesses and cooks smiling and nodding and watching while they don't watch

These girls finish four years of university taught in English with not a word of English

These girls want government jobs
The government wants this bowl
The government wants these rupees
The government wants these hearts
The govt wants these motorways 
The govt wants this gravel
The govt wants these bund roads
The govt wants these coconut groves
The govt wants this coir 


This chorus is recorded
These horns are recorded
These bells are not recorded
These cows are recorded and they're not recorded
These cows are animals here
Like giant monkeys
And giant storks
And graceful cranes
And slithering mongooses
And stinging ants
And wading frogs at poolside
And peacocks in the field
And hawks with serpents in their mouth
And eagles soaring high and higher
And dragonflies in a small evanescent swarm
And cats domesticated and semi domesticated 
And crows waiting for the catch in Point Pedro
And flying foxes letting loose at dusk in Jaffna
And a dead monkey in the Royal Pleasure Garden in Anuradhapura
And a stinging ant in a deluxe guesthouse in Colombo 


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