Poems By Shirani Rajapakse


Many years later
when the sun rose and set
in the sky over and over so many times

that you forgot to count, painting it a myriad shades of orange, red and gold, he told you

it was doomed to fail.
The signs were there for all to see.
Except you, as you breezed
through life with a smile as wide as a

silly clown stretched across lips.
Your cup was spilling over, a waterfall flowing
in a tropical monsoon.
Happiness swirled
engulfing you in an intricately embroidered
pink pashmina.

You didn’t notice dark storm clouds gather
at the back of his eyes
like soldiers camouflaged in the jungles in some
faraway place.
Lines furrowed into his brow
like the darkness outside on a
moonless night.

It all started the day the gecko
chirped in distress.

Slithering down the wall, a little yellow brushstroke on red brick, it called out loud, trying to say something as you turned to leave. One last look

at your old home as you prepared to start
a new life with him in
another place.

But the gecko sensed something
you didn’t. Maybe it was trying to
warn you of what was to come,
the deceit and lies he threw at you
like scraps of old newspaper into the trash.
You ignored his call, didn’t care about
the urgency
in his voice, the insistent warning
to you, while

he paused to listen and note, but didn’t say
a word to you then.

He knew it was going to be better for him.
The astrologer predicted
your stars would outshine his.
You’d bring him fame,

he claimed, so what did it matter that you’d have to put up with all the rest?

It wasn’t your place to complain,
a woman should know
her worth, keep quiet and bow down to

her man’s wishes, or so he said.

Now you sit in this dark room
back in your old home with the curtains
firmly drawn, a no entry sign to the world
pinned to the door and wonder why it turned
so wrong, but the gecko on the wall looks away
in disinterest.
Old and frail he has tired of trying
to make himself heard to no one that
cares to listen,
like an oracle everyone consults
but doesn’t bother to follow.


Gazing out of the wide window
my eyes stare at unseen birds singing on
croton branches near
the compound wall.

But I see things
that aren’t there.

My mind’s a whirlpool churning

through horizons yet undiscovered.
Bills to pay, the shopping list that never ends,
repairs to the house.
But money is scarce.
I search through passageways of my mind
for answers,
how to solve the problems,
knocking on doors locked for the weekend,
dusty no-entry signs rudely keep me out of others.

I lift my eyes to the goings on in the garden;
the noisy chatter, yet
my eyes see through this all to what hides
behind, inside spaces no one can see.

On the Shelf

Time costs too much these days.
It costs as much as the gas to cook
the family food for an entire week.
People would rather spend on gas than on
time for the likes of those left behind.
Others like you and me
who wait alone in our old homes for someone to
come over, for a word, a smile,
an acknowledgement that we

still exist.
Still matter. But no one has
a moment to spare.
No one can no longer afford the time for
others in need.
Like us.
Their desires are far greater
and our needs cost too much.
So they prefer not to spend it on
nonessential items.

We have become expensive commodities
in a world gone mad
for everything money can buy.
And there will always be more things on the shelf.
We too huddle on the shelf and wait, but
time is not for us.

Where has the time gone?
Where have the cares moved?
It rests hidden
beneath the piles of slush that seeped
in with the men who came in to rule.
They ruled our time, took it for
themselves with promises of hope

no longer available.
No longer theirs to give.
And we swallowed it all
and continued to swallow until
there was nothing left.

Then we gulped down time and the cares for
others on the shelf.

Long Distance

You control the
conversation, an invisible
remote button pressed
when it pleases you,
expect me to dance to
your tune, but the music is a
broken record and my
feet don’t step up.
I feel out of place in this strange world,

tripping over myself, a burnt out star
but there’s no one to
catch me with arms
open wide.
You have moved away.
The phone has gone dead on me
again. The music never
really started.
I waited three months to
learn the steps
passing the time dressing for the part.
The record was never repaired.
It skipped so frequently.
And now the room is silent,
the melody doesn’t play

anymore, the echoes on walls have faded like flaking paint

falling off while you are practicing your
song for a performance in
another place.


Author Bio

Shirani Rajapakse writes poetry and short stories. She’s the author of six books including Gods, Nukes and a whole lot of Nonsense – winner of the 2022 State Literary Awards, Sri Lanka; I Exist. Therefore I Am – winner of the 2019 State Literary Awards, Sri Lanka, shortlisted for the 2019 Rubery Book Awards, UK; and Chant of a Million Women – winner of the 2018 Kindle Book Awards, USA, Official Selection in the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing, USA & Honorable Mention in the 2018 Reader’s Favorite Awards, USA. Rajapakse’s work was highly commended for the 2022 erbacce-prize for poetry, UK. She also won the 2013 Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest, Hong Kong and was a finalist in the 2013 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards, USA. Rajapakse’s work appears in many journals and anthologies including Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry, Litro, Berfrois, Flash Fiction International, Voices Israel, About Place, Mascara, Counterpunch, Silver Birch, International Times, New Verse News, Cultural Weekly, The Write-In, Harbinger Asylum and more. Her work has been translated into Farsi, Spanish, French and Chinese. Rajapakse read for a BA in English Literature from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and has a MA in International Relations from JNU, India.

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