3 poems| Indran Amirthanayagam

1. Dog Cull

First published in The Sunflower Collective

The parallels boggle me blind,
like a cliché the poem writes
on automatic pilot, 300,000 civilians
by the lagoon, among them
a smaller number of Tiger terrorists.
Bomb, bomb, bomb away
to eliminate the terror problem.

Now we have three million
stray dogs, sterilization
has not worked, we need
to cull, to limit the number,
under one hundred, of citizens
succumbing to death
from rabid animals, dogs et al.

So kill the canines. Don't think
about the unrabid roaming free,
and if the domestic pet escapes,
and wanders through
the neighborhood he too will see
his god. Let all dogs live in fear,
not advertise their residencies

in their respective compounds. One
never knows when the dog patrol
may rove behind the white vans.
In the end we will live happily
without terrorists or rabies
and more pliable populations
of Tamils, and of dogs.

2. Cheran

Reprint. First published in Uncivil War, Indran Amirthanayagam, Tsar Publications, 2013

He is writing history, where he lives, when he travels,
to Demark, Singapore, Tamil Nadu, Toronto. Edward Said
wrote about Palestinians, Rudramoorthy Cheran, Tamils.

News that my friend has suffered a mild heart attack
does not surprise me. His muscle has been strained
for more than thirty years.  From the Saturday Review

where he reported  the first days of rebellion in Jaffna
to more recent sociological study and dramatic writing,
the man, as scientist and poet, has let emotions hang

on strings strummed to a tabla’s beat. Wordsmiths
for Tamilians are as good as our instruments
and words are always enhanced by music. I recall

when we met in 1987 at the International Centre
for Ethnic Studies on Kynsey Terrace in Colombo,
where I moved as a kid when the house was home

and not yet a center dedicated to resolving differences
between people, the wounds of the1983 “Riots” were still
very fresh, and enthusiasm for resolution of long-standing

grievances of long-suffering Tamils strong, and nobody
thought we would allow democracy to fall into tyranny.
Neelan had not yet crossed the hairs of a Tiger,

nor even Premadasa, but the Indian Army were
landing in Jaffna, and resistance came soon after
that brief spring during which Cheran and I smoked

a cheroot and spoke poetry tinged with sadness
still for the murders of Black July and the suicide
of Sivaramani, whom we translated before the light

of an oil lamp in a thosai kaddai and thought
that, now we live abroad, let us recognize
at least that our spirits will not present passports

and our children, which we could not imagine
then, would wander about our new homes and
may one day think that to be Tamil is to be well-

prepared to write the essay on expulsion from
the garden, and to feed, dream and compose
that other promise too, called the right of return.

3. Executed Summarily

Reprint. First published in Uncivil War, Indran Amirthanayagam, Tsar Publications, 2013

The Sri Lanka Killing Fields documentaries remind us of what
took place while we manned barricades, carrying posters
and placards, shouting in the evening off Robson Square,

on Parliament Hill, in our far-away democracies. We are told
that the rest of the world, the United Nations, just wanted
the war to finish, inevitably, with government victory

while hoping that the largest possible number of hapless civilians
crouched in bunkers, running from shell to shell, would live
to prosper again. Forty thousand or more died while survivors

languished in detention camps, released now to live from scraps
without jobs in a vast territory full of monuments to the victory,
army camps, soldiers manning intersections, running investments,

rebuilding projects in Chinese and Indian hands, and stupas
erected beside kovils, new street names, and prohibitions
on singing a certain national song in Tamil, a mild suggestion

to help make peace palatable, that Tamils will be allowed
to sing in Tamil, even this remains to be adopted , yet how
to keep colleagues at work, friends informed when repressions

elsewhere have claimed their due rights,  inevitably,
to the headlines.  In Homs, Syria, Marie Colvin, was targeted
again by a government shell, this time she died.

Back in 2001 she shouted that she was a journalist, while
walking towards government forces in the Sri Lankan theatre,
and a grenade tore out her eye.  She survived, bore witness

to the war which in its moments of final resolution did
not allow entry even to the Red Cross, to pick up wounded,
deliver surgical supplies. We know now that captured

or surrendering fighters, as well as some civilians hiding
in bunkers,Tamils, even babies and old  people, whomever
soldiers found mopping up, were executed summarily.

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