The Way It Is, at International Times today.
We can’t sing certain songs
that speak of our glorious past or our
identity. We are shamed. Tunes
hummed softly to walls that sometimes listen but
don’t record words barely coherent they
brush cheeks against hard surfaces
and sigh to winds passing outside. We
can’t be proud of our
history, the long winding road
of deeds that made us who we
are, those many, many years of development,
love for humanity and the land we
live in, the great strides we
took into the future that brought us
here where we are, right now. We
are ridiculed, made to feel stupid, those years
slowly erased from memory one word at a time,
dissected, analyzed and thrown away as
not being worth a cent. Our
history. My history that sleeps crammed tight
inside cupboards, imprisoned behind glass
walls in a white man’s home, forgotten, yearning to
return but held back by words agreed with
forced signatures while mothers watched
their infants balanced on swords. We
aren’t allowed to practice our beliefs, our
religion of non-violence. We
are looked down as being inferior practicing an
ancient wisdom they claim has no place
in this new world order rolling in. Everything is being
re-written to suit the white man
are forced to accept the white man’s ways
and beliefs, his lifestyle, his food filled with things
that harm our bodies. We
are persuaded to sell our values, our businesses,
infrastructure, money making properties that are
made to look as disasters, failures in our
incapable hands, handed over to foreigners with
no idea of their true worth, to appease
buffoons in political power. We watch helpless as our
lands, those many tufts of earth that make up
this place we call home, nurtured with the blood of
warriors that died to save it for a future,
are torn up, lines drawn for
ownership claimed from foreign shores.
Slowly, slowly we
change, turn once again to become slaves to
whiteness this time not controlled with
guns held against us
but through agreements signed in cold climes
behind hushed doors. We
are compelled to obey the rules
follow the oil man’s religion. Shroud our
women in darkness. Our
words are twisted like vines, tied up,
strangled. Simple meanings deconstructed, what we
meant is portrayed as something negative, ugly,
best left unsaid thrown into the gutter. We
become nothing. Beaten up our
backs curved in surrender aged beyond our
into submission to the white master
oil master coming in different clothes, speaking
through different tongues sliced in two, sugar
coated to please
controlling through regional bullies,
political prophets and
religious puppets, money exercising utmost
authority while debauchery reigns,
reigns, reigns and thugs party with not a care in
the world and the police cheer and the public
cry foul and no one listens for ears
hide inside potholes and words roll in the dirt
desperately waiting for the rains.
© 2016 Shirani Rajapakse
This is Home is a short story I wrote last year about a Palestinian woman stuck in the middle of the conflict. Check it out here.
Two poems “Dilemma” and “A Forced Silence” are included in Dove Tales Family and Cultural Identity released on the first of this month.
A License to Dream is featured in the “LEARNING TO DRIVE Poetry and Prose Series” on Silver Birch Press.
Four of my poems are featured on VerseWrights today. They are “Dream of the Housemaid”, “Questions Left Unanswered”, Driving Down Galle Road” and “The Violinist.”
Two poems, “The Poetess” and “Woman of the House” was published in Learning and Creativity as part of the 6th Women Scream International Art and Poetry Festival 2016. To read go here.
“Out of Control” ,a poem for My MANE Series running this month on Silver Birch Press.
Earth Song is featured in LIJLA Vol 4 No1 February 2016. Go here or read it below.
I am the weeping earth cringing
in pain when you dig me up, pulling out
limbs, entrails leaving me to hemorrhage.
Shocked, in excruciating pain, no one hears my
silent cries. Children orphaned, lives torn apart,
fracking my veins drinking me dry. Parched
I crumble into pieces. I am the silent sky watching
anger whizz by to explode in places you don’t like.
Not yours to care while I listen
to the cries of the weak
trying to make sense of it all
amidst terror raining down from
above. I am the roaring waves, the deep
darkness under heaving waters, flowing rivers
gurgling streams and silent lakes that stand still as
mirrors for clouds to comb their hairs. You
damn me everywhere but I lift my
head straining to rise, course through the
way I want and not how you think
I should. I am the raging fire that burns, taking
the trees with me chasing the birds away,
the deer, rabbits and wild beasts
that hide within my voluminous cloaks. Trees, how
I love to sway to birds tunes, the beat of squirrels feet,
weave my magic through the land, burrowing in deep,
standing up tall reaching high to the skies waving
my many arms in the breeze holding onto life. I am
woman I am life I am earth and I bleed.
Originally published in “Writers for Calais Refugees” A Place to Call Home was published today in International Times.
A Place to Call Home
When what you flee from is
not what you want to remember, blood
washing streets, bodies decomposing,
sisters forced to strip down, gorged on like
the entrails of cattle by a dozen or so men
wanting things they have no
right to, but expect you, your mother or daughter to
pay, when what you run towards is
not what you expect, ephemeral like sad clouds
passing overhead or translucent lines of
steam rising from coffee whose taste lingers
only in your memory, when what you witness is
not what you had hoped, for yourself and the others
with you, unwashed bodies, smells of fear, loss,
helplessness, hunger that not even the dog on the
street experiences, huddling in the darkness as
you rise and fall on waves pounding through, praying
to any god that listens to let you stay afloat
balancing precariously on her many sighs
and heaves and not embrace you into her octopus
arms like she did so many times gathering others into her,
the dark skirts smothering only to vomit them up on
beaches, worn out, unresponsive, of no
significance, when what you look forward to is
not what you get on arrival, the snaking lines, the wait,
the taunts, the beating, razor sharp wires that brand
your attempts to scramble out, the sneers and most of all the
looks of contempt, you wonder if what you left behind,
however terrible it was, however cruel the sun shone, was
better than this, a living death – who can say if there
is better than here, but can you retrace
your steps to here that doesn’t want you anymore?
Posted today a poem about the elections in Saudi Arabia.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2015
|RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — In elections that allowed Saudi women to vote and run for office for the first time, more than a dozen women won seats on local councils in different parts of the country, officials said on Sunday. While the move was hailed by some as a new step into the public sphere by women in this religious and conservative monarchy, the local councils have limited powers and the new female members will make up less than 1 percent of the elected council members nationwide. —NY Times, Dec. 13, 2015. Photo credit: Ahmed Yosri/European Pressphoto Agency.|
What use a vote
when they are all shrouded
in darkness? An
image at the periphery of the horizon
crying to be acknowledged,
a shadow fluttering past, a sad cloud
shielding its eyes from
a dust storm,
a puppet in the house
dancing to someone’s idea of a
tune. None of these are of much use,
except to entertain
and you don’t
need a vote for that.
Shirani Rajapakse writes poetry and fiction. Winner of the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013, finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013, and shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2010 her work appears in Flash Fiction International (Norton 2015), Silver Birch, Asian Signature, Moving Worlds, Berfrois, Counterpunch, Earthen Lamp Journal, Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry Review, TheNewVerse.News, About Place Journal, Ballads (Dagda 2014), Poems for Freedom (River Books 2013), Voices Israel Poetry Anthology 2012 and many others.
A Place to Call Home was published last month in Writers for Calais Refugees.
Issue 5 of Cities + is all about secrets. Here is what to expect in the issue.
“We send you on a hunt to find answers written in urban landscapes and whisper (or maybe shout) to you about Rankopolis, the most ‘city’ of all cities. There is a polemic on the parasitic nature of the urban-rural divide. There is a series of conjurations based on Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ (if you don’t think you can see the invisible, think again)(actually always, always think again). And there is a most impressive contributor who literally unearthed the secrets of her garden. That’s not even an exhaustive list. ”
Check out The Old Road on page 58.
I’m one of the writers featured at the Evening of Poetry and Prose organised by the English Writers Cooperative on October 23rd.
A review of Flash Fiction International at Kitaab. To read it go here.
“Right on the trail of Kafka and coincidentally just a few pages after him, we have the story “Shattered” by Shirani Rajapakse from Sri Lanka. The title hits the reader like the single-worded and sometimes monosyllabic title of a horror movie. Now this is not the case at all in terms of genre but the events described are nothing short of horrifying. The writer speaks about war, like many other Lankan writers do, but Shattered puts a unique spin on the theme.”
Read “Loneliness” published today in Vol III Issue II.
For more info check it out on Facebook.
Three poems “Taken for Granted”, “The Road to Over There” and “Unwanted Visitors”.were published in Asian Signature recently. I had no idea they were published until a few minutes ago when I went looking for something else and found the link to my own poems.
“As much as I love and admire full-length fiction, these little marvels have had such a salutary effect on me. I highly recommend them for you, too. Take and enjoy. The doses might be small but they are always bracing!”
Check out the review of Flash Fiction International by Luke Sherwood in Basso Profundo.
“A Wish List” kicks off the “My Perfect Vacation Series” that’s on right now at Silver Birch Press. To read the poem go here.
Somewhere in Ladakh, India.
The Editors at The Write -In have created an event for today, June 27, National Flash Fiction Day. Write flash stories based on any of their prompts and if the the stories are interesting they get published. It’s all happening right now. Check out my story Things that Happen in the Night.
“Growing Up in the City” is included in the “ME, AS A CHILD” Poetry Series that’s on through April and May. To read the poem go to Silver Birch Press.
What can a hundred rupees (approximately 0.75 USD) get you? A bottle of water, a snack, some sweets, maybe a short bus ride to wherever and back? That’s not much really. A hundred rupees certainly won’t get you in through the door of any theatre or movie hall anywhere in the country either. But on Saturday April 25, a hundred rupees opened the doors to a literary festival. And it wasn’t just any literary festival but one that brought together local writers from all communities in Sri Lanka to one single venue for an entire day. Yes, a hundred rupees marked its value well that day.
Anyone interested in books and writing had a whole day to spend at a literary event with an added bonus of a sampling of kadala (chickpea) served in a typical gotta (paper cone) all for a hundred rupees.
The Western Province Aesthetic Resort in Colombo that played host to the event was in many ways an ideal location. Two well air-conditioned halls and one open hall, an open air space and a fairly large area for stalls – books and food and resting places, plus the greenery and water features provided a pleasing setting on a sultry Sri Lankan day.
The Annasi & Kadalagotu Lit Fest created a first in many ways. The thirteen events from a book launch, talks with writers, a documentary, publishers’ clinic and panel discussions were spread out across three halls. It was the first literature festival in the country that had such a low entrance fee, enabling everyone from all walks of life to participate in every activity with no extra charges. It was also the first time writers from all three languages of the country Sinhala, Tamil and English came together to talk about all things writing.
Adding to the local flavour were the street vendors who’d set up at the entrance selling hot hot kadala, boiled spicy manokka (cassava), annasi (pineapple), corn on the cob and veralu achcharu (pickle). Discussions flowed, ideas were exchanged, friends met, books bought and autographed, food consumed while the coffee ran out even before the start of the first session.
Kudos to the organisers for all the hard work.
(Images curtsey A&K Lit Fest)
“The authors of several stories set in war-torn lands, among them Lin Dinh’s “Man Carrying Books” (Vietnam) and Shirani Rajapakse’s “Shattered” (Sri Lanka), use the brevity of the form strategically to suggest the vulnerability of their characters to sudden twists of fate.” Flash Fiction International (W.W.Norton). Read the full review at Publishers Weekly.
Or check out the review at W.W.Norton.
Moving Worlds Volume 14 Number 2 Catastrophe and Environment will be launched during the two-day public conference Reframing Disaster that will be held from 28-29 November 2014 at Leeds.
Reframing Disaster is being held to mark the 30th anniversary of the Bhobal Gas Disaster in India, the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide and the 10th anniversary of the South Asian Tsunami.
The conference will “think through how these and other global disasters have been conceptualised and represented in art, literature, film and the media.”
For more details about the book including a table of contents and purchase information go here.
Turn to page 44 for my poem “Conversations in the Dark.”
The theme of this issue of Cities + is language. The issue “explores how Cities speak through bodies, books, buildings, cracked images, children’s drawings, grafitti, ground diagram sillouettes, maps, mechanical sounds, musical notes, pictures, poems, scents, sidewalks. Consider this issue as a multi-sensory dictionary, whose entries go far beyond words, and go back to them – or simply start with them.”
Check out “Colombo” on page 50.
Last year New Verse News published “September” a poem I wrote about 9/11. You can read it here.
2014 is a significant year for anniversaries of disasters. While all attention seems to be on the centenary of World War I this year is also significant as it the anniversary of several natural catastrophes that took place around the world. It’s the 30th anniversary of Bhopal Gas Disaster in India, the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, and the 10th anniversary of the South Asian tsunami.
Several events to commemorate the anniversaries of the natural disasters are being held in Leeds, UK in November.
- “Reframing Disaster” a conference connected to an AHRC-funded research project led by Dr Anthony Carrigan, entitled ‘Representing Postcolonial Disaster’ will be organised in November as part of a week-long series of activities designed to coincide directly with the anniversaries of the Bhopal and South Asian tsunami disasters.
- It will include an exhibition by world-renowned Indian photographer Raghu Rai (the first photographer to document the Bhopal disaster), to be held at the Tetley Gallery (http://thetetley.org/).
- Launch of the Tsunami anthology by Moving Worlds.
Those interested in participating in the “Reframing Disaster” or presenting papers go here. Note the last date to submit is September 7. You may query at the site. For details on the project Representing Post Colonial Disaster go here.
I tend to publish more poetry than fiction for whatever reason. This is one of the few instances when I published fiction. Check out my flash story “Night Visitor” in Issue 2, published this month. It’s a dark story, but then that’s what the Deep Water Literary Journal is about – exploring the dark side of life. To read the rest of the journal go here.
Mali, the poem written for the jailed Sri Lankan elephant and posted on my blog in 2012 is included in Animal Liberation Front.com. Let’s hope more people get behind the effort to save Mali, like they did for Sunder. Go here for the poem or go here to check out the rest of the poems, stories and essays and other facts relating to animal rights/abuse posted on Animal Liberation Front.com.
Two poems, “Late Afternoon” and “Games People Play” are included in Mascara Literary Review, Issue 15, May 2014.
My poem titled “The Shower”was selected as a finalist in the 2013 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards. For more details check Poetica Magazine here.
Reminiscence is published today in Kitaab.
She is Spark’s tribute to women from all walks of life this month. My short poem “Woman of the House” is also included here.
Can you tell a story in 25 words? How do you fit in a beginning, middle and an end, describe characters, themes, set the scene, add dialogue in just 25 words?
The answer – Short & Sweet, Sri Lanka’s first ever anthology of hint fiction.
Short & Sweet includes over 160 little pieces of fiction written by over 90 Sri Lankan writers from all walks of life including some well known names such as Yasmine Gooneratne, Shyam Selvadurai and Ameena Hussein. It is curated by Sanjana Hattotuwa.
Short & Sweet was launched last evening in Colombo.
Happy to have one of my short, short, short stories published here.
For more information and orders go to http://www.pererahussein.com
Spark celebrates its fourth birthday this month with a potpourri of writing. “Celebrating Another Birthday” is my contribution.
My poem titled “The Capital” is included in “Channels” Volume 19. Channels is an annual publication that features contemporary Sri Lankan Writing and is published by the English Writers’ Cooperative (EWC) Sri Lanka. It’s not available online and I’m posting the poem here.
Colombo clicks her heels
tonight as music throbs in hidden
spaces. Lights blink
as they guide the way along lush
avenues, winding, trees
bending in acknowledgement.
The breezes blow cool
and calm across waters cleared,
now winking as the lights reflections
spread out across the lakes, canals
and waterways free to flow
as they wish. Old world charm sprawls
while modernity rises
from the earth. Brick by brick
the future beckons. The city smiles
at the wonders ahead.
The avenue of independence
has lost her soul. Torn
down by the puppets of the people.
A debauched brain ordered the change.
The earth shudders as trees
crash to the ground,
the birds scatter, their nests
lost in the dust of development,
progress, the need to renew.
The dogs rounded up and sent off
to die. Boiled, gassed. That’s their fate.
There’s no place for the likes
of them in this city
brand spanking new. Not for the likes
of canine, avian; the crows
or strays. The beggars
they kill, their heads smashed with rocks
no better than dogs and left to rot
on pavements. The blood stains on
concrete blocks licked up by
scavengers. The city mourns
and wonders what lies ahead.
© 2013 Shirani Rajapakse
As of yesterday all my published poems are now collected in one space for easy reference. While the links will continue to be available here on this blog the poems are now all at PoemHunter at just one click.
However one poem “The Stray” which I posted here on the blog on November 25, 2011 was taken off as it included “profanity” – seems they didn’t like the word “bitch.” But what do you call a female dog? Is it profanity to or what? You be the judge. Here’s the poem again.
“Why Take her? She’s a
the same kind,”
she replied and
Read Hope, a poem published in Volume II Issue III on the theme of “The Future of Water,” November 2013.
“On the Way to Over There” a micro story, is featured in the Autumn 2013 Issue. Flip through to page 32.
Read “September” live today at http://newversenews.blogspot.com/2013/09/september.html Or read it below.
My poem “Where do we go from here?” appears in Issue 10, Fall 2013 on the theme of Samsara.
The June issue of Spark is out. It’s about the Facets of Nature. Check out my poem “Colombo.”
The Return is featured in Vol I Issue II of Earthen Lamp Journal on the theme of conflict.
“Misunderstanding” is published in Poet’s Basement in CounterPunch, May 1, 2013.
My poem “Tall Majesty” is included in Volume II Issue I of About Place Journal on the theme of trees.