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2 POEMS – Janiru Liyanage

on January 4 | in Poetry | by | with No Comments


My body builds another body inside itself. My mother gives birth and she is mythless and moonless again and this is what I fear most: her, yellowing in the soft and aching light until her eyes turn glassy; she empties, she empties into; I imagine her too: deer-like, knelt, lapping water from a ditch, full of perfect and jewelled guts and here I am miles away, gripping the subway pole to forget for a second how my body sheathed in smoke is calling it quits: right here, we stop with all this gasping and fogging mirrors with our breath; these days, every part of my body is an eye; I can only love you one way: with all these teeth and this blade buried in my blackening palms. I unseam my loneliness, feral and untouchable. I am making you as you unmake me. Fear is a structured response, the lover says as he practices his breath on me, searches my insides like a soft sacrifice for forgiveness, a name to redden in his mouth; breaks me open like a question, guts me to the marrow and there, in the centre, he holds up a quaver, a quivering semitone he fills his mouth with its warming light and says Love me, love me all the way inside





the man on the subway asks where I am from
and I cannot answer; I mean to say [ ] died and
somehow, I am here now; I mean to say [ ]’s
mother is weeping and I fill my mouth with money;


and it’s true that we have no country–
we have no country worth dying for
I say home and mean the stain, the warming clot
of blood in my mother’s left lung, mean
we open our mouths and the light inside is
our home, we hew incense to the holy agarbathi
wick we came from and it’s our home; our
anthem is to saffron and incense, the thin
smoke in our knotted hair, us warming in
the sun and our grandmother’s brown
hands, our grandmother’s good brown
hands gathering us, pooled and alive forever,
our stories spangled in romance and gauzy streaks of
Sinhala, perfect by never being told


our anthem is to our fathers chanting pirith
in the dusk and porchlight, wrapping
Jampala and Sai Sin around our wrists, Hosanna!
to Kasun and Tharindu and Buddhika and Ayusha,
To Tharaka singing Ahasai oba mata with all the
wrong notes, and to Ahamed crying because he
is in love with him but it is grace; it is good; he is still alive


and it’s true that my people are everywhere
our mothers steaming and sweat-bellied in
the kitchen, soft lilac eyes, rakta doḍam
and tambilli making a sweet red lip of their
thumbs, our uncles, all soft liquor and plumes
of smoke, all silk and languid in the street, our uncles
lull, their songs heavy with syrup and saffron
enough to make any aunty swoon


our aunties gone abroad to white men and
our aunties gone muslim, the only muslim
still allowed home; home and not yet wed,
waiting-for-the-stain-to set-home;
home and not home for al-hijra and eid
and hajj; our aunties, a slick pool of blood


and red ribbon on the sidewalk,
hijab dissolving to wind; our uncles, broken
to open chords in the night;
but today, I help my mother cut tamarinds in
the gloaming and amber light; today, I shred cinnamon
with my hands, unfurl a mango
all Columbo sunlight on the inside,
and my people are not dead


they sit around the table, their mouths, small
gaping moons and we are all alive and
glimmering in sequin and gold and the
red saris we stole from our grandmothers, our


hair, a fountain of jasmine; we are alive
and brown, and we are alive and sunlit, we
are alive and the colour of glint and ash
and amen, we are alive and the colour
of our grandma’s ashy hallelujah,
we are alive and how good it is, how good it
is to see you again magē rattaran,
mashallah, adhiṣṭhāna, amen,
amen, amen, amen


Janiru Liyanage is a 15-year-old school student and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. His re-cent work appears or is forthcoming in [PANK], Frontier Poetry, Wildness Journal, Cordite Poetry Review, The Cardiff Review, Homology Lit, Up The Staircase Quarterly, Boston Ac-cent Lit, The Journal Of Compressed Creative Arts, Ekphrastic Review, Driftwood Press and elsewhere. He serves as a reader for Palette Poetry. He is a two-time winner of the national Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards, a recipient of an Ekphrastic Award from the Ekphrastic Review and Sydney finalist of the Australian Poetry Slam. He has appeared on The Project and featured in Namoi Valley Independent, The Minister’s Media Centre, Audition Material Young People among other places. He is a recipient of a UNICAF scholarship for a degree at the University of California Riverside, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Suffolk, University of East London, and Unicaf University. Born as the son of Sinhalese immigrants, he currently lives in Sydney.

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