Elephant Scarer

Elelphant Scarer

On the road to Polonnaruwa

where shortwave dispatches

brought despair from the homefront

the election scuffed up

dust from the roadside

and another five years

found its place in the sun.

Lumbering with the noonday air

we breathed the same breaths

our tread just as listless

as those dragging their burden

along famished streets

we had left behind

back in the mother country.


On the road to Polonnaruwa

there are ancient wounds

of which no one speaks

the earth beneath us rumbles

a rift that runs deep and sonorous

all the way to the capital

and the empires that lie beyond.

The elephant in the room

rouses when we least expect

awkwardness at the home stay

the rules of hospitality

seem lost in translation

milk boils over on the

makeshift new year stove.


On the road to Polonnaruwa

the hosts place demands

on the guests and the sun

bears down on strangers

who trek through the scrub

carrying bottled water

that is not for the locals.

In the soft parchment

of our dreaming a tooth

heads south towards Kandy

its owner entered nirvana

in the foothills and floodplains

where we set down in winter

to follow his trail.


On the road to Polonnaruwa

the villagers cry Aliya!

a chant to ward off

that which it names

families made of straw

look out like scarecrows

to the wildness of the bush.

Back home the townsfolk

erect their own elephant scarers

place themselves by proxy

on the scaffolded frontline

where markets run wild

and the populace lives

in fear of stampede.

December 2019