The Wail of Trincomalee

25 Mar

Bring me fresh spices from Trincomalee

How can I, they be all dead there

Cardamom, pepper, and orange leaf tea

Only arms and torso and head there


Vetiver, sandalwood, tales of yore

Colonizers were led there

Rivers of tears are what’s left of the war

Savagely mothers have bled there


Orphaned children amass at the graves

Who will see that they’re fed there?

The peace of existence that everyone craves

Forgot to be born and bred there


Show me the signs from the paradise hills

Angels now fear to tread there

As dusk descends and bird-call stills

Spirits howl in their bed there


Pearls and ships and eastern winds

Vast fortunes lay spread there

What nature offers, man rescinds

No one will rest their head there


The flowers are gone from Trincomalee

To adorn the pyres, they said there

And those of us left by fortune’s decree

Must shortly depart in dread there

16 Responses to “The Wail of Trincomalee”

  1. Aunty G. March 25, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    Morose Monday poetry
    For deathly Trincomalee
    But vetiver is khus
    Didn’t know thus
    Had to rush to dictionary!

  2. R March 25, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    Heartbreaking – both, the poetry and the plight of the people in Sri Lanka. I recently met someone who recounted what it was like to give up a high- paying job in SL and escape to India, literally overnight, in order to save his wife and daughters from being raped and killed; what it was like to suddenly have the walls of your own house rendered unsafe. I think of the many Sri Lankan friends I went to school and college with and wonder if they are all safe. Wars/ conflicts are never a good thing – I wonder how many, many broken souls this one will leave, in its wake.
    On an unconnected note, Vetiver is one of my favorite smells – it brings back memories of hot summer afternoons and cool rooms, darkened in the shade of thick, fragrant vetiver curtains.

  3. hAAthi March 25, 2013 at 2:50 am #

    So beautifully poignant.
    As someone who just doesnt “do” poetry — because why say in few words what I can ramble on about in endlessly long convoluted sentences — I am always in awe and filled with respect for people like you who can weave so much emotion and be so pithy.
    Beautifully said.

  4. sukanyabora March 25, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    beautiful OJ…curious, what was the inspiration behind this?

  5. Dancing Fingers Singing Keypad March 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    A very very beautifully woven, touching poem! Your words moved me deeply.

  6. Null Pointer March 25, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    Love. Peace of existence reduced to pieces of existence to be auctioned off like spices.
    Trincomalee is my backyard
    Trincomalee is in my head
    Into bluest of sleeping waters
    My pearls did dare to tread.

  7. Dancing Fingers Singing Keypad March 25, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Also sharing a link a friend (an editor collecting submissions) gave me on Facebook and requested me to spread the word:
    This is a call for submissions for ‘Veils, Halos and Shackles’, an anthology of international poetry.

  8. Orange Jammies March 27, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    Aunty G: Now that you know
    That it is so
    Use it
    Or you’ll lose it
    Give it a go!

    R: Sigh. Yes. The human cost of war and the operation of state machinery both fascinate me. It would be so much simpler to look away, but My Heart the Masochist won’t let me.
    I’m intrigued that you are familiar with moist vetiver curtains, because I’ve only ever read about those in Raj books (and wanted them for myself!)

    hAAthi: Thank you, girl. Rambling eases many parts of us. (Except the bladder. That would not be fun.)

    sukanyabora: How do I tell you without stumbling into multiple layers of education and life experiences? Let’s keep it simple: the immediate triggers were a detailed journalistic piece about the downfall of Velupillai Prabhakaran and a recently read book that reflected the trade and bounty of the region. Underneath that, there lie years of interest in colonization, history, and zones of conflict. Then there’s the mentality of growing up Parsi and therefore “not totally from here” and the ever-so-subliminal identification with the loss of a homeland (never mind that it was more than 1200 years ago). It’s really such a melting pot of motivations, I can’t keep them all straight. But thank you for asking. It made me stop and think. 🙂

    DFSK: I am honored. Thanks for the link. Will certainly spread the word.

    People, please share DFSK’s link freely!

    Null Pointer: Love. LOVE! It delights me when this blog becomes a literary jamming space. 😀

  9. R March 27, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    They were a common sight in TN when I was growing up, OJ; even now, most of the smaller towns have them. I think I even saw them being sold here in Madras, last summer. They smell wonderful.

  10. Meera March 27, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    Beautifully, beautifully put. Funny how joy never pulls as many heart strings as sorrow does

  11. dipali55 March 28, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    My comment disappeared:(

    So poignant and so heartbreaking, OJ.

  12. Orange Jammies March 28, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    R: I want one, I want one! I want a fragrant California summer. 😦

    Meera: Doesn’t it? You know, that’s really food for thought. I’ve been debating this in my head since I read your comment. 🙂 No conclusion yet.

    What do you folks think?

    dipali55: I’m sorry–but look, this one showed up! 🙂

  13. R March 29, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    If you ever have someone coming this side, I will be happy to send you one. I remember a tweet of yours about fine lace (I think). The Victoria Technical Institute here sells the loveliest cushion covers/ bed spreads/ tea cosies/ coasters/ table runners with delicate lace borders, fine embroidery and tiny French knots. Oh, and did I mention that they make baby clothes in fine muslin/ cotton with similar embroidery? Smocked dresses in pale pastels and sunshine yellows for little babies? I think of MM and you every time I am there. You are the two ladies in the blog world I know will love it. So yes, do let me know 🙂

  14. Orange Jammies April 1, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    R: Thank you ever so much for offering. I’ll try to get the Boy to carry one sometime–maybe I should ask how large it is before I commit! The Victoria Technical Institute sounds just like our RTI–Ratan Tata Institute. Sigh. You’re bang on. I love those things.

  15. subhorup dasgupta (@subho65) May 5, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    Brilliantly evocative and gutwrenching at the same time. New to OJ. Off to look around. 🙂

  16. Orange Jammies May 6, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    subhorup: Welcome. 🙂 Feel free to browse. Thank you for your kind comment!

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