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Poetry by RICHARD DE SOYZA

 

Rites of Passage

 

1956

"Api ymuko Josey *

Api ymuko Josey

Api ymuko Josey, yamuko Josey chandey damanna……**

Dakunu kakula perata dama, shata pata gaala *** "

(Electioneering song)

 

1985 - Tangalle

 

Going in search of democracy

Off to the election Down South

Land and milk and honey and guns

(They call it shotgun democracy)

 

40 miles away from democracy,

The enterprises falters-it's 2a.m.

Driver's tired, the girls need sleep

Pull into the Rest House.

 

No room in the inn, but parked under the tree

The others sleep. We can't. Strange town, strange smells

Strange night sounds drive us into the streets

In search of excitement-may be in this South

Things happen near dawn that happen nowhere else.

 

Up and down narrow, winding, ill-lit streets

Past guesthouses - a sleeping petrol shed

Back to the curving road that follows the coast

And the surf roaring faraway, nearer,

HALT ! -

 

The searchlight comes screaming out of the dark

Blind and freezes you, cat in the path of a truck.

 

Hands fly up

Then it hits you

Now you've done it

Now you're guilty

 

Now can't put them down lower till told to

And he can't lower the gun till told to

That faceless voice behind the beam

 

This is the moment of truth

Wherever there's a fence

Manned with guns.

APPROACH !

 

Stumble over the rough grass

Eager to show identity

Show we are on the right side

 

-We were just taking a stroll. We're going in search

Of democracy, going to see the by-election next door

 

-DON'T YOU KNOW THESE ARE NOT THE TIMES FOR NUTS LIKE YOU TO BE ROAMING AROUND LEAST OF ALL IN SEARCH OF DEMOCRACY
THIS IS OUR ROAD AND ITS OUT OF BOUND

 

-We didn't know- we're strangers here

 

IN THAT CASE YOU SHOULD BE FAST ASLEEP
NOW MOVE- BEFORE I CALL UP A JEEP

 

- We are going

In search of democracy

(They call it shotgun democracy)

shot to pieces…

 

1984 - Elephant Pass

 

Surely it was before this that I stood

Nerves shot to pieces, while the lieutenant

Who found me blundering sleepless through the camp

Brought me up sharp with a command to halt

Then told me gently the whole perimeter

(I was not a meter away from it) was mined

Mind, he said

So is the water below the barbed wire fence.

The searchlight glared at the shallows, fiercely changing

Anything to move

-And I was thinking of a swim !

 

1988

 

Well, he's dead now, and I'm alive

The war got him in the end

And he got a decoration


Defender of Democracy and the Nation


Still searching for Democracy ?

Mind those fences.

 

 


* Lets go Josey

** Lets go Josey, To cast the vote

*** Put forward the right leg first and hurry up !

 

 

 

The Poet

 

i

am the eye of the camera

can only reflect, never reject,

never deflect

 

i

am the eye

of the camera

silent recorder of life

and death

eye that can only reflect

never conjure up images

probe the reality

never reject

 

i am the eye

of the camera.

ireflect nothing

but truth.

 

the external reality

cannot deflect

the mind of the viewer

from picture to passion

 

i let them all fashion

their truths through my magic

i cannot reject

the external reality

that passes the truth

 

and what is rejected

by natural selection

has nothing to do with me

when i am impotent

robbed of my power

my eyes in the dark at the moment of crisis

see nothing but well favoured men of the world

 

i

am the storm's eye

ceaselessly turning

around me the burning the death the destruction;

the cliches that govern the world of the words

of the prophets and preachers, and may be the saviours

are lost to my peering

blind eye in the dark.

 


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