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Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe
The Moon at Seenukgala

We followed a footpath fading like old ink on an ancient map
through a crowded forest
of trees straining up, sun-searching;
branches, boughs, pushing leaves lightwards.
Birds, dumbstruck by the morning-dusk of this shade,
flew noteless from nest to fruit to open mouth.
Butterflies rose from the ground like crystallised dust
settling, clustered, helter-skelter everywhere.
The forest, all wilderness,
drank our walking sounds and turned footsteps
into leaf-mulch thuds, cracking dry wines
back into earth fodder, when suddenly
it stopped.
The forest pulled its denseness behind us and pushed us on
to open land, dry grass, where a river thundered somewhere
everywhere ahead of us.
We stood, shielding ourselves, sun-shocked-sound-struck.

The river, mad, impatient drove over its bed, a half
bared back, a skinless spine of disparate boulders.
We stepped across this humped liquid ground, like mariners
navigating through exposed icebergs, but this was tropical journeying,
beneath us the water foamed, plunged, fell, and
unexpectedly, pooled completely still
within a ring of stones.


Night came as suddenly as we had upon the river.
Above us, a fullmoon touched our heads and a
Scorpio twisted its stingless tail northwards,
pointing us to places we no longer sought.
Someone stoked a small fire and wood-smoke
filled the crystal air, a thin strand, rising like the desperate signal of the lost traveller.

We stepped into the still water surrounded by a river
determined to leave,
as we shuddered, shocked in the discovery that our roots
grow lush, full, tunnel deep into the earth’s core
at times and places like these. Every road ever travelled,
every timeless quest for gold, ambrosia,
love, surely ends here, where our skins become the scales of
fish, our bones crisp boughs of driftwood, our hair our teeth, every element every tree every water and every stone.
Knowing we had to return to where we had come from,
we reached up, plucked out the moon and put it into our pockets.


Each day, now, as we grope our way through cities
of wide tarred roads, name-boards marked indelibly,
directions signposted,
we pull out this moon, a white-disk compass,
hold it to our ears and listen to the sound of the river rushing home,
or twist it, a dial on our palm, and watch the wood-smoke tumble out, and
singing, laughing, throw this moon back up into the sky, and watch the water crash through every concrete building;
washing our hardened walls, filling our closed rooms
with lunar rivers boulder forests liquid fires.

This, is the way home.






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