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Monday, May 16, 2022


by Shirani Rajapakse

The Sri Lankan state is descending into a full blown political and economic crisis, as more people contend with starvation, death and severe disruptions. Now they are also facing the brutal violence of the state. The BBC reports at least nine people died and more than 200 were injured as vehicles and houses were set alight during fighting between government supporters and critics this week. The island is facing its worst economic crisis since independence, and the responses of the state indicate it is incapable of protecting its citizens. The deployment of military force, however, is unlikely to quell unrest. The anger and frustration displayed by the public, aggravated by pro-government protesters, is only likely to grow – fuelling further distrust in the ruling government. —The Conversation, May 12, 2022

Watch the blazing 
snarls of flames 
spitting disgust. 
Bodies stand outside arms raised 
fists wrapped round 
poles ready to beat up dissent 
silence with one stroke 
anyone, anyone who protests 
opposes the wrong 
howling jackals laughing condoning 
acts of violence. 
Wrong is the new right. 
No one understands where 
we stand. 
Who are we? How did we 
come to this? 
Thirty-five years ago 
I cowered in fear 
of red guerillas stalking streets 
vengeance running in veins 
bloodthirsty hyenas 
A new generation that 
                    doesn’t remember 
the knock on doors dragging 
life out pleading screaming begging, 
                    never saw 
bloated corpses floating in waterways 
or have to step over 
roasting moaning bodies unrecognizable 
piled up on the side of roads, 
                    through fear 
wondering if they will be next. 
heard about those days 
through history’s sieve. 
the norm to get what 
cannot be 
through the ballot. 
Is power so blinding we 
gorge on our own? 
Brother against brother, the same 
kind, flesh and blood 
stripping bare to kill for a different 
cause or 
for promises of treats? 
The future sheds tears eaten 
up greedily by cackling flames 
silently through swirling 
fumes roaring hatred 
and what is left 
to moan for—cinders that were 
once homes now 
kicked to the side 
as vultures from foreign shores 
                    line up behind clouds looming 
                    at the periphery of the island  
to step in and devour the land. 

Shirani Rajapakse is a Sri Lankan poet and short story writer. She is the author of five books including the award-winning Chant of a Million Women as well as I Exist. Therefore I Am. Rajapakse’s work appears in many journals and anthologies including Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry, Litro, Linnet’s Wings, Berfrois, Flash Fiction International, Voices Israel, About Place, Mascara, Counterpunch, Deep Water, Silver Birch, International Times, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Spark, The Write-In, Asian Signature, Moving Worlds, Harbinger Asylum.