Dr. Kamala Wijeratne, SRI LANKA

ICONS

In her babyhood
she was given dolls
to kiss and cuddle
to bathe and dress
to play with and sleep with
wasn’t she after all
going to be a wife
a mother and a mother’s mother
nursing husband, children
and their children?

To her brother they gave guns
air guns, water guns
guns that spluttered
and guns that splattered
water and paper
all over the courtyard
guns that touched her forehead
and said, ‘Fall, fall down’

She fell down and picked herself up
and pulled the gun from his hands
and told him,
“It’s your turn now
You fall down.”
he fell down
and picked up the doll
from the floor
and threw it on her face
She shot the doll through and through.


DAUGHTER AND SON

When she was born
mother was much cast down
she so much wanted a son,
to carry on the family name
to prop up the ancestral home
but here she had born
a hapless female
who needed going after
to be chaperoned and watched over
until safely delivered
into the hands of a young man.

Then she had a son
the heir long waited for
he was born fulfillment and hope
she thought herself supremely blessed
and held her head high
and above the rest
she showered everything on the son
choicest food at table
the most expensive clothes
the best school, best tutor
and best of everything.

The daughter of course
was second best,
she had to wait her turn
wasn’t she girl after all?

The son took the best of the dower
rode and played with the fashionable
soon, the ancestral house was sold
and the name dragged in the mind

the mother had nowhere to go
no one to succor her
no one to tell her woes
for the daughter had
chartered her own course
and gone out of her orbit.

Out on the road, looking for a home
she was accosted by a woman
who seemed to have won
the world, and she
took her hand and said
“Shall we go to my home
it has no name or status
but it has fire in it
and warmth, it has
doors and windows
that you can open and close.”
Together they held their hands
and climbed the steps
to enter the flat of a
very small size.


ALL WOMEN

The flight comprised all women
the pilot and the crew
could they make the journey true
safe and sound, would
they take off and land
as they should?
Would they bungle at the start
or up in the blue sky
would it be a smooth touch down?

All women air crew
is it possible or true?
will they have the nerve
to guide the plane
across the sky?

Women have never done
such a thing before
can they do such a thing now?
So the tongues wagged
the critics enlarged
the danger and fanned the fear
but the ladies rode the air
and brought the plane back
safe and sound.



Dr. Kamala Wijeratne has been publishing her poetry since 1983. She has published ten anthologies of poetry including a collection for children. She is also a short story writer. She has received State Literary Awards for her poetry (2004) and short stories in (2013) and (2016) from the government of Sri Lanka. She has also received awards from the prestigious publishing house, Godage and Brothers for her short stories in 2013 and 2016. Her poems have appeared in international collections of poetry, published by prestigious publishers like the Penguin Books and National Book Trust, India.

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