Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SIEGE, a Poem


I can't recall the links at the Golf Hotel
but I don't believe the government

of Alassane Ouattara is contemplating
a chip shot or a putt. I read there are only

800 Peacekeepers between his team
and Gbagbo's army. Betting men say

that ethnic ties are paramount and nobody
ever doubted a Bete man's will to fight,

and as for logistics, how long will
an African Union army take to arrive

in Cote d’ Ivoire? Needless to say they will
not be greeted with attieke and grilled fish.

But wedging Gbagbo, freezing World Bank
loans, his bank accounts in Europe, coco

exports have come to port but have not
been able to leave, how long can this last?

More will die including some principals.
Perhaps there will be a palace coup.

Perhaps the will of people written
in the urns will be respected

but only after unnecessary, uncivil
bloodshed, 200 dead thus far.

Indran Amirthanayagam, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ivory Contemporary, Poem

Ivory Contemporary

Named for ivory, later stripped clean,
the country began to sprout cocoa,
though in copses by a few rivers
the forest elephant drooped still its tiny
frame and trunk through the bulrushes.

I recall the fine tarmac and dirt
paths we drove to meet Headman
and Elders, to bring books and receive
a rooster, a hen. Agriculture, land
husbandry, how can I forget

the moutons with their Djula herders,
and Dozos, hunters with amulets
that can deflect bullets?
Yet what are these few memories
worth at market in Cocody

or Treichville, now that the Army
has blocked nearby streets
and prepares to lay siege
to the Golf Hotel where Ouattara
and his government have registered

guarded by Peackeepers
waiting for the current
occupant of the Presidential Palace
Laurent Gbagbo, to accept defeat,
go into exile, or continue

to order the Army and his gangs
to fight; what price shall we place
on power? His foreign homes
are under threat, the squeeze
has begun, when will the Man

come out of the palace
to face the people
who denied him at the polls?
What value suffrage?
Whose army is stronger?

Sad to recall that Gbagbo
was once a legend, a philosopher
and hero of the Left, the chief
opponent to the sometime
benign dictatorship of Houphouet-Boigny.

Go with dignity. Hold your head high.
Don’t forget the family, the assets,
the invitation to be an elder statesman
to the continent, not reviled in history
as Mobutu, Charles Taylor, Idi Amin Dada.

Indran Amirthanayagam, le 20 de Decembre 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Anthems and the State of the Union

I posted the following on

I have been stirred and moved even to tears by both the Tamil and Sinhala versions of the Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, anthem. I think I owe this emotional tie to birth on the island, to school on the island, to my first toffees and cricket matches on the island. I wonder now how a boy born today in this same, yet- not- the same, Sri Lanka will feel, denied the comfort of hearing his mother tongue at the award ceremony, the annual Shakespeare recital, the spelling bee. I find myself a bit blase contradicting the noted historical wisdom of the ministers who passed the recent decree. They said there are no countries which sing their anthems in more than one language. Of course, that is not true. Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, South Africa, even the United Kingdom which brings together different nations with their particular anthems, come to mind.

But I wonder why a country that has celebrated its rich mixes-- that have produced outstanding talent in literature (Ondaatje), cricket (Murali), and that sprinter, Susanthika Jayasinghe, who won a silver at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and Duncan White who started the trend at the White City Games in 1948-- has changed its law. I speak too much of sport. What about antropology, which has rewarded the world with Gnanath Obeysekere and Valentin Daniel, political analysis, with Jayadeva Uyangoda, diplomacy with Jayantha Dhanapala? We have many heroes in our country and we were all once, boys or girls, moved, choked-up, listening to our mother tongue on the loudspeakers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Liu Xiabo, Updated


Liu Xiabo sits in jail
for writing in favour
of free speech
and thus seeking
to “subvert”
the state, an old
crime against
the emperor
for our times.

Indran Amirthanayagam, December 8, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Injustice in Cote d'Ivoire

Alassane Ouattara just won the second round of the long delayed elections in Cote d'Ivoire by 54 percent to 46 percent for the losing candiate Laurent Gbagbo. Despite this loss Gbagbo has seized power in the country through his influence over the country's Constitutionsl Court. President Obama, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and other leaders from throughout the world have recognized Alassane Ouattara's victory. We cannot remain silent before another injustice committed against the democratic values we cherish and celebrate. Speak to your representatives. Write poems. Work with the African Union to isolate this usurper, this recalcitrant power boss and his government that will not accept the will of his people and the wishes of democrats everywhere.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To My Autistic Son, Revantha: Poem by Guy Amirthanayagam

On this birthday I publish here one of my father's great poems written to my brother Revantha. The imaage of the undetow of sadness has grounded and consoled me ever since I first read the poem. With love, Indran

To My Autistic Son, Revantha

Old soul in a young body, they said.
‘Twere better he was born dead!”
Sins of the fathers, the Christians said.
Ill conjunction of planets, the palmist read;
Fetters of the flesh, cycles of suffering
The Buddhists complacently proposed,
Allah be praised, Kismet in swing,
The fierce Moslems savagely disposed.

Slow motor reactions, my neurologist reckoned.
Early childhood autism, my psychologist beckoned.
Heredity’s the problem, the maid-servant proclaimed:
The servant was vile, his mother declaimed.

I reck not his ruin in his toothsome smile
His speechless grimace, so free from guile;
His dour determination to opt out of life
When all around him are mired in strife.
Lucky and prescient, my miraculous boy,
You will spend your life with spendthrift joy.
I am proud that you have so early seen
That there is in life an undertow of sadness
Which rocks what fleeting gladness
There is today, or may once have been.
I will love you steadfastly as long as I dare
But is there nothing that you can share?
Will you leave me with this nagging regret
That even to me you will never bare
Your awesome secret?

--Guy Amirthanayagam

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nazreen Sansoni Poems

These poems by Nazreen Sansoni break the heart and evoke bittersweet humours in this reader. I have known Nazreen for years but only in moments during short visits I have made back to the mother island. Her work goes beyond poetry, making of Barefoot, the principal free space for art, dance, theater and music in the capital city of that bittersweet and heartbroken country of Sri Lanka slowly healing now from the cruelties of the thirty year civil war.

These poems will be registered in the hearts of readers who believe that honesty in lyric expression, the image delineated clearly and stated boldly, is the ingredient of fine poetry.

A noble guest

I know you know
where love lies
not in hearts that are heavy
with depression
or some malaise
but in the soul underneath
to be released
if only for a moment
to kiss your face.

NS July 2009

A Lie

Jealousy, fear and insecurity
Manifest at the most unlikely time
As I am about to step into my bath
Smell a perfume
That I know does not belong to me
So – I smoke a cigarette
Enjoy the deep satisfaction
Of the inhalation

When my husband comes home
The smell of smoke still lingers
‘Honey, have you been smoking?’
‘I don’t smoke.’ I reply, quietly.
Unplug the bath, watch the water drain
After all, one lie deserves another



Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 11:21pm

Every morning
when I wake
my first thought
is of civilians
In the vanni
Women children
no chance
at life
She might?
Is a terrorist?
For god’s sake
She could have
been a scientist
Our loss
Our unimaginable loss


Monday, July 12, 2010

Lectura en Medellin, el 13 de Julio, con Bob Holman

Este martes presentare mis poemas sobre el Mundial en el Centro Cultural Colombo Americano junto con mi amigo y colega Bob Holman. La direccion en Medellin es Carrera 45 # 53-24, La cita es a las 18.30 y forma parte del Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Morning: Before the Semi-Finals

Morning: Before the Semi-finals

Waves rise and fall near the footpath by the sea
on a misty grey Lima morning in our dreams
as we build scenarios. Now what if Suarez were
allowed to return for the final, can Uruguay gobber
up the Mechanical Orange during its semi-final
with some defensive glue, clamp down all movement
then pounce on a breakout, a counter attack?

Can it keep its legs fresh for 90 minutes, but Holland
will have other ideas and which team is younger, fitter?
I don't have all the necessary info. to move to judgment.
Must turn to the sea birds, the para-gliders, perhaps
some living survivor of the last Peruvian side to play
in the World Cup, a local expert--I wonder how I would
manage if my walk took me by Galle Face or along

that extremely long beach in Chennai. The Indian
subcontinent has never competed in a World Cup
although India could have travelled to Rio in 1950,
gaining a place by default, but it demurred claiming
that playing with bare feet would not be allowed,
a lie exposed quickly, but base politics can infect
any federation--and there are solid reasons

for subcontinental absence: temperament, pace of life,
what cricket has taught us although even that great
master of fair play and honour has speeded up proceedings,
but let me not be distracted by parochial debates among
sports about which will better equip us for the trials of life
like the upcoming battle between good luck, cheating,
skill and heroism in the semi finals of the World Cup.

Indran Amirthanayagam, July 4, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Intervention, Quarter Finals

Intervention, Quarter Finals

Hand of God, hand of Luis
Suarez, hand of fate, destiny,
desperation, immorality, hand
that gave Uruguay one more

roll in the last minute
of the last extra time, hands
and feet, the idea of keeping
hands away in foot not hand

ball, in the moment of defeat
what rules apply? Hero or
villain, Ghana’s Gyan hitting
the cross bar on the penalty,

bitter pill, even in foot the ball
does not drop, even in foot
a Brazilian turns to frozen jelly
while the Dutchman flies; order

of bets turns upside down, or
is Brazil just another beautiful
play become four act tragedy,
specialists of the quarter final

exit, or am I just fussing about
football when gross
international production
dips during World Cup games

except in broadcast, soft drinks,
tee shirts, vuvuzelas, plane
tickets and all sorts
of paraphernalia, including

pictures of players’
significant others? This
is business for some and
yet in Cape Coast, in Accra,

what are gentlemen saying
in high life bars? If we
had the chance to stop
the wrecking ball with

our hands and save goal
and country we too like that
bad cat from Uruguay would
break Good Lord FIFA’s rules?

Indran Amirthanayagam, July 2, 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Before the Quarter Finals (World Cup Series)

Before the Quarter Finals

Bereft is the word, lost, niggling absence,
this break in daily unveiling of the World Cup

before quarter finals kick off, forty eight hours
of writhing and reliving the unfortunate business,

ball bouncing beyond German line by 32
centimeters to break England’s lion-heart, shot

from offside that jump-started Argentina’s ride
over Mexico, foot fault by a finger leading

still to Spain’s illegitimate goal that sent
Portugal home. Hard to digest that three matches

of the round of 16s were marred by goals allowed
in error, that the world is tuning still into football

despite football’s rejection of its good sense.
Breaking News: the head of FIFA apologizes

to English and Mexican federations. A small
step for FIFA, yes, to be celebrated, certainly;

but if Germany’s goalie, or an Argentine
player, preferably the scorer, had stepped up

in the moment of scandal to say no, no, no,
we do not deserve this point, that would

have been a story of saving grace in a world
gathering worth talking of to the grandchildren.

Indran Amirthanayagam, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mexico, Assassination

Mexico, Assassination

Political murder hurts not only surviving members of the family
but all supporters, the dead politician’s community. Remember

how many dreams and spirits fell with Colosio? Now this
recent Mexico has disposed of Cantu in Tamaulipas, candidate

for governor, kidnapped a former head of the PAN, Diego
Fernandez Cevallos. When will the crap shoot, breakdown of state,

impossible living under threat of traffickers with automatics, almost
daily mowing of ordinary Mexicans into bits in Ciudad Juarez,

escapism into narco ballads, easy circulation of weapons, fear,
when shall all this end--and not in statistics about untimely death ?

Indran Amirthanayagam, June 28, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup Fraud

World Cup Fraud

A poor call by the referee should not decide a game.
When a player strikes a goal he should have recourse
to a third eye in the stand, a camera, that can help
distinguish wrong from right, as in many other sports.

I don't understand why FIFA persists in celebrating
human folly and frailty, why millions of fans must go
to bed tonight feeling their teams have been robbed,
that blind officials and blind luck trump skilful play.

Surely. even winners must feel some remorse to have
benefited from the erroneous whistle. Their victories
have been diminished and they should call opponents
and say, let us play again, another 15 minutes

for the gaffe, or just have your goal back and let us
see where that leaves us. Old rules are rusting, rotted,
time to move the game to a more equitable plain,
to reduce even the appearance of untoward gain.

Indran Amirthanayagam c) June 27, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010


Séptimo Mañana, Mundial

Las Américas llevan la ventaja en este Mundial.
Cada día me despierta otro golazo argentino,
uruguayo, mexicano, y falta que Brasil comience
a revelar sus cartas. Hasta Estados Unidos
tiene oportunidad para llegar a octavos.

¿Y qué tal el más viejo continente?
Es triste; en este momento de su bautizo
como anfitrión, sus equipos juegan con el Diablo
y su lanza de fuego y han empezado
a quemarse. ¿Para dónde van las vuvuzelas?

¿Acompañaran a los jugadores en sus primeras
caminatas por los círculos más remotos
del Infierno? No me dejes escribir más,
mi Dios, tal vez los Elefantes de la Costa
de Marfil están a punto de lanzarse en estampida.

Indran Amirthanayagam, el 17 de junio, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mass Marriage, Vavuniya

I submitted the following to If you do not know the site, read what's published there. The writing offers lanterns to help illuminate the island's darkness.

Mass Marriage, Vavuniya

What a large and dramatic idea occurred to the brigadier in charge
of rehabilitation , to organize a mass wedding to spur former Tiger

troops into formation under a different philosophy and yet appeal
to their strengths to cohere as a group not any longer in waging war

against the State but to reveal their common humanity to agree
to a public celebration of private bonds, to ensure their co-habiting

led to proper inheritance for children, access to social welfare
payments when necessary, all to the good for these members

of a herd, now in white vershtis and magenta sarees eating cake
and chatting with relatives witnessed by the Bollywood actor

Vivek Oberoi, no less, before returning to detention camps,
now two by two, respectable members of the new unitary ark,

where domestic animals gather obediently while the brigadier
sheds a tear; he told the press, he was nervous, even more so

than before his own wedding, which did not take place thankfully
under public glare and was not diminished by the splendour

of mass marriage like mass production of poultry, efficiencies
of scale, government desire to move rehabilitation forward

in one swoop, a sort of dog training in a large group; anybody
realize that marriage among truly reborn takes place between

two people and the witnesses are God and invited guests? Here,
some exceptions were made to the usual practice, no consultation

with bride or groom, whether the actor was indeed an honoured
guest, or if the brigadier should cry like a mother, or if even

53 couples minded seeing their knots tied in the presence
of each other, or have Reverend Moon and other enlightened

priests of mass marriage, become advisers to Sri Lankan
military, spiritual guides to its standard operating procedure?

Indran Amirthanayagam, June 15, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

6 Straight Lines, Gaza

The absence of sense depends on cultural ball bearings where and how they fall/

to determine relative logic of putting one foot forward in longitudinal march to border lands/

where a country’s laws meet powerful competing demands of moral and international norms/

where six boats on the high sea must be given free passage and are not subject to fits of national/

madness leading to death even death has no logic except to draw attention to continued crime/

of blocking access to cumin and cement, among other necessities, for population of Gaza City.

Indran Amirthanayagam, May 31, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Antesala de Medellin, el 26 de Mayo, 2010, Lima

Si andas por el centro de Lima este miércoles 26, a las 7 pm, para un rato en el Centro Cultural Inca Garcilaso, Ucayali 391. Ahí voy a leer con el poeta Renato Sandoval en " La Antesala de Medellin". Sandoval y yo nos reuniremos de nuevo en la vigésima edición del festival de poesía de Medellín en julio.

Los poetas Renato Sandoval (Perú) e Indran Amirthanayagam (Sri Lanka) ofrecerán una lectura de sus poemas, como antesala del XX Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín, Colombia. El evento, al que ambos han sido invitados, tendrá lugar entre el 8 y el 17 de julio.

Fecha: miércoles 26 de mayo

Hora: 7 pm

Lugar: Jr. Ucayali 391, Lima.

Entrada Libre

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On Mark Pawlak's Jefferson's New Image Salon Matchups & Mashups

Once in a while, perhaps every day, as in an endorphin-releasing morning walk, let us extract ourselves from pressing matters of family and state and delight in the splendid anti-oxidants of association. Mark Pawlak’s Jefferson’s New Image Salon Matchups and Mashups offers us this divertissement. It tells us to look once at the subject name and to stare wide-eyed at its predicate as in “Lincoln Hat Supreme” or “Washington Rib & Chop House”,” Roosevelt Costume Shoppe,” or in the link that gave Pawlak his title “Jefferson New Image Salon.”

I have never read a poetry collection like Pawlak’s latest. This is anti-poetry in the spirit of Nicanor Parra’s drawings with lines attached, as in Parra’s cross where the moniker says “Voy y Vuelvo” ( I will be right back).

The beauty of Pawlak’s book is that he has done the associating from found materials, everything here picked up by an observant and intelligent citizen, member of the community. Pawlak, the peculiar poet, has taken on the role of acute observer and subsequent assembler of tomfoolery and gimcrack and wonder. Like Shelley from our Romantic Poets class, “the unacknowledged legislator,” here is an avatar, resident in Cambridge, Massachusetts and frequenter of “Leda Foods” and “Helen’s Leather Shop” (from “Greek & Roman Mythology in Massachusetts.”)

Pawlak draws his arc wide across the canvass, from the Greeks and the Bible to Shakespeare and the New World. He includes British Authors and European Composers and North American Tribes. This assemblage comes certainly from New England, from associations linking European settlers and America. I have begun to daydream about other associations, perhaps from the West Coast, Chow Fat Salon, or Good Luck Cleaners, or perhaps a Hawaii specific set, Diamond Head Grill, Waikiki Flip Flops, But the universal begins of course in the particular and New England culture and its attendant parts merit a feast day and a fine poet of found materials, a Bauhaus-type, a wit with shapes of words, Mark Pawlak.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

SWING A BONE--for the jazz, man

I wrote this poem during a happy time in a city I love, Monterrey. Mexico. I used to jam with Omar and Milo Tamez and joined them on stage with other musicians from throughout the world during the city's annual jazz festival. A poet, used to embodying silence in speech rhythms and metaphors, stands in awe before riffs on precussion, guitar and saxophone.

I read in the newspapers that Monterrey has become a shooting gallery, that battles with drug traffickers take place everywhere, that one cannot walk about any more in a state of tranquility. I wonder about the illusion of that tranquil sea. I remember the delights of Buenos Aires, strollng after midnight and absolutely calm and safe. I suppose that music can serve as a palliative, that the gulf between the rich and poor can always seem too hard to cross using the usual methods of devotion to studies, getting a job that can pay the bills, establishing a family and teaching one's young to live carefully with the other creatures who occupy the planet. Let jazz continue to heal the gulf, the wounds. Let music make peace.


--for the jazz, man.

Swing a bone

catch a skull
in your pocket

your sweat
jingle jangle jangle jingle


bilious bloody blowing

brittle smithereened


spool unraveled

gene code


my friend,

pure bone
at home
on the street,
on the phone

I tell you

swing a bone….

It doesn’t matter
where you swing

India, Wales
Sing Sing

Hell‘n Heaven

Man knows not
‘cept he’s got

the bone
and you don’t

have the phone

bone phone
we’re talking
bone language

Mr. Coltrane
soprano bone

Monk fish

swim, man,
closer closer

to the keys



base bone


my man,

the bone

the sap


Bone bone bone

Let drums roll

We’ve got
a bone to throw
in the room

Hey Monk
black and white

Hey Coltrane
tenor the sax

Hey Mingus
deeply does it
boom the bone

smooth, man,
smooth that alto
sax in my ear

I’ve got a phone
call, man,


and ringing
from the other

side, Man,

Hey God,
Got a bone?

Monk, don’t go,
Mingus, stay,
Coltrane, I invoke
you, Ornette

don’t leave me
man, with God

I need a bone.

Indran Amirthanayagam, March 31, 2004
Jazz Festival, Monterrey

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Resoluciones, 2010

Resoluciones, 2010

1) Que mi hija siga adquiriendo nuevo vocabulario, sea más segura de si misma y que siempre sea feliz.

2) Que mi hijo establezca más amistades, deje de pasar horas revisando vídeos y vuelva a componer poemas y que siempre sea feliz.

3) Que yo encuentre editoriales para mis libros inéditos en castellano y en inglés, ¡que sean reseñados!

4) Que adopte una nueva manera de expresar las emociones e ideas que circulan en mi cerebro, que no sea solamente en el poema.

5) Que pueda amar tranquilamente, sin miedo ante los miedos de la bien-amada.

6) Que el mundo haga caso a las Cassandras para que podamos construir un mundo sostenible.

7) Que no olvidemos que estamos de paso, hay otros seres que necesitan alimentarse al lado nuestro.

8) Que nos reunamos en un café con tazas de hierbas antioxidantes para que nos sanen.

9) Que nos bendiga el amor del viento y el sabor a sal, al caminar por el Malecón

10) Que todos los carteros del sur y del norte repartan la felicidad que siento al escribirte.

Indran Amirthanayagam, January 1, 2010