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.
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
The trees are falling,
falling down along the avenue
flanked by the law, the arts
and the house of the intellectuals.
Helpless we watch the machines hum as a piece
of history is cut down to the ground.
Fallen sentinels of the past struck
down by the follies of the present that no
one dares oppose while
beauty is destroyed and the earth torn
apart. Green gives way to concrete.
Planted by an ancient they spread themselves far
and wide. Up above, the branches swelled
to cover the skies. A canopy
of green for the people to walk
through. Hugging the earth below them
stretching their roots to take hold of their home.
“Old roots,” the men sniffed in disdain, “old
roots decay and bring danger to
all,” they claimed. The machines marched in,
the people protested, banners in hand to no avail.
The birds added their songs of alarm
beseeching, beseeching for the trees to stay,
homeland in the skies tumbling to dust.
Their high-rises groaned in anguish as the machines cut
them down. Tears in the skies stopped,
stunned at the affront. Darkness
wasteland they will raise. Twinned with the desert
what more can you hope?
© 2012 Shirani Rajapakse
Photograph courtesy Stand Up for Colombo’s Trees on Facebook. For more information visit http://www.facebook.com/groups/116812511815589/?fref=ts
Sad eyes stare at the world outside,
iron bars lock you in. Four thick walls
mark your space. This is all you
have and nothing more. Proud strong
woman from my homeland you live
imprisoned in a web of lies they
churn out for money from crowds
that come to ogle as you stare
out of your cell with lonely gaze.
Your feet hold scars of neglect yet
the pain in your heart
can never be seen by those that claim
you are well. There’s no one in that space
that can share your grief. You hide it inside
as you have all these years. Can you
still speak oh woman of my land?
Do you understand the words
your ancestors spoke, recall the stories they
whispered to you as a child? Do you yearn
to walk across the lands they owned,
feel the breeze on your skin
once more as it blows warm and free?
Remember your life long ago dear friend,
in that faraway place divided by earth
and sea. You roamed with your
family, played in the woods,
picked up trunkfuls of earth that you
smeared on yourself, bathed in rivers deep
and narrow as the fish swam below between
your feet. Remember the days, you walked
with the herd across vast tracts,
brown and green and azure up above.
They promised you happiness
the day you were sent as a gift yet all
you got was this prison lonely
and sad. Solitary confinement yet you
committed no crime. How long will this last?
Every day you die
a little and every day the lies grow strong.
This month has not been a good one for dog lovers around the world. The forced euthanization of Lennox in Ireland after two years of court battles was followed by an equally horrible treatment of Wicca in Canada. Both dogs, pit bull,s were considered dangerous to society and were therefore put down. The fact that there was no evidence, or very little to prove the aggressive nature of the dogs was of no concern. Halfway around the world in Sri Lanka, animal rights activists were fighting to save the lives of stray dogs on the streets of Colombo.
Lennox was denied the right to live because an unnamed expert in Belfast described him as one of the most unpredictable and dangerous dogs he had come across. Yet this expert did not give his opinion before any court of law nor did he provide evidence for his claims. The City Council of Belfast took his word for it and went ahead. After two years of being locked up and treated in a horrible and degrading manner by the authorities Lennox was euthanized. He was denied justice even at the very end. His owners too were denied the right to see him or even give him a proper burial. Why was Lennox’s remains secretly cremated and the ashes not given to his owners? Was it because the gruesome nature of his treatment at the hands of authorities would somehow been reveled had the remains been handed over to the family? These are questions that remain unanswered and have sparked anger at authorities.
Lennox’s death could have been avoided if only authorities had agreed to shift him elsewhere, to America where he would have had the chance to live. Yet authorities in Ireland preferred to look the other way and go ahead with their rules.
Wicca’s death was even more unnecessary. Here were the authorities taking the law into their own hands. There was no evidence to prove that Wicca was dangerous. The so called reason for his sentencing – the attack on a woman, was hardly evidence. The woman in question did not bring charges against Wicca yet the authorities chose to act on their own and sentence a dog to death for no reason.
Street dogs are being rounded up and killed in Sri Lanka. Animal rights activist have been staging frequent protests in Colombo demanding to know what has happened to the stray dogs they have been feeding. In a bid to beautify the city of Colombo authorities appear to be going ahead with getting rid of not only the strays, most of whom are sterilized and vaccinated, but also birds nesting in trees. Animal rights activists claim that despite the “no kill” policy adopted by the government in 2010 the strays are being rounded up and taken away.
Animals have rights too wherever they live. They are part of society and should be treated as such. But what happens when authorities take the upper hand? Where is the law to protect these innocent victims and what right has the state or authorities to aggressively go ahead with their wishes without due process of the law?
Family and friends of Lennox have begun a process to prevent such acts of aggression from taking place for other pit bulls. The same is being done in Canada. Activists are fighting for the rights of strays on the streets in Sri Lanka. But would legislature be enough? Who takes action against those in authority who violate the very laws they are supposed to uphold? This might be something that activists everywhere need to look at in details if we are to put an end to the violation of animal rights the world over.