Friday, January 2, 2015

The New Year

(This was written almost 14 years ago in 2001 where the mad juxtaposition of a "new year"with a presidential election triggered the thoughts. Just as appropriate today I suppose.)

The New Year

It is coming up. “Always be thou in that state” is my fond hope and wish for every single type and form of New Year. Coming up. For those of us that believe in being tired enough after a year of not shopping to actually go out and start a feeding frenzy at the various boutiques and booths that spring up around this time in anticipation, there is always Avurudu[1] For those that believe that the New Year dawns only as often as every next election there is the next election to keep them happy. This time around, by wonderful coincidence these two events are happening around the same time. That racket should be awesome! 

On the one hand politicians of all sizes, symbols, colors and promises are swearing us a perpetual New Year beginning when they get elected. On the other, the stars tell us that its time to crack out the crackers. Both talk bunkum in loud voices and both leave a bad taste in the mouth once they have come up and gone. And, both cause massive hemorrhage in our financial organs be they macro-economic or micro-wallet. I myself would have rather had both the astrological and political New Year in a suspended state of “coming up”. We can all live with a vague question mark exclamation point combo-symbol hanging in the air, do nothing much, earn nothing much, have an alternative to weather as a way to open conversations with strangers and blame all of everything on the stars flying through the sky and those perambulating on the ground.

Having said that, well, the poem below the two following paragraphs is not about any of that. It’s about puppy love and I have tried to get that point across without quite succeeding. Be that is it may, it still remains one of my personal favorites.

I had taken the curve towards Nugegoda supermarket junction (from the Bo-tree junction into Stanley Tillekeratne Road that is), when I happened to notice an emaciated old man seated on the ground on the side of the road and flashed him a smile. He smiled back at me and said “Mahaththayage shirt eka hari lassanay[2]  ”. I removed it and gave it to him. Don’t ask me what the shirt looked like because frankly, I can’t remember. I simply lost track of it the moment it left my hand. He accepted it with grace. I was not ecstatic but maybe content that the balance of universal need, desire, worth, worthiness and ownership was restored in a small sense? We gifted each other one more pair of smiles in parting and I was on my way to the best, which was yet to come, just about twenty feet down from there.

Those twenty feet took me to where the church is you know? On the left, that cream colored building? Attired in faded jeans and skin from the waist up and I see this dog. Mange ridden to the point that his skin was gray but gosh! with the most expressively beautiful eyes I’d ever seen in a canine. I bent down to stroke his head for his eyes were saying “welcome” so invitingly and one thing led to another so we decided to sit down in the middle of the pavement to discuss all of that a bit further and this conversation I record took place amidst the cacophony of the Avurudu shoppers.

 New ‘ear 2001 - Nugegoda

(dunno why the doggerel said hi to me...maybe he says hi to everyone...maybe I smell bad enough for him... who knows...god and I both know we burn...for the chance hi's that come our ways...lil fella...I return courtesy with courtesy and pause to say hi to him in turn...he turns with a slow shake of head...I imitate him...we both got nothing worse to do...and nothing less to loose...but the waves of screams and waves of be-fabricked humanity that overwhelm us both...he lies down in the center of the middle of wherefrom to whereafter...across from the church of light and hope...beneath the rain and grime and smoke...I stop and raise me eyes ta really see...I think its a kewl place ta be... I grin boyishly at him and he grins back and winks at my  dishonesty... I am not....young... or ever needed ta be...) 

...and the insides of their homes
need spots of newness
to cover the drabness
encasing the fabric of their souls.
the fabric of their clothes 
oozes too much of the
the slime of their innards...
after all
a year is a long time
for pieces of cloth
to hide the stink
of mouldy bodyparts
and rotting minds...

(pooch sits by my feet in all his mangy glory ... I like the lil fella...he got no fabric covering *his* bare skin ... he don't mind...and he don't mind that I don't mind... like I said...I like the dude so I sit beside him and light up a fag and he sneezes in mild rebuff ... but I just lost the shirt on me back and he don't object that I got no fabric ta cover *my* skin ... he just don’t like smokers is all and we strike a compromise...he licks at the sweat...trickling down me leg... and I blow smoke in his eye ...he makes like  "snewfff...snewfff" at periodic intervals and I sympathize and make like "ick... ick" in syncopated ...I lay me palm upon his head... he licks me hand and smiles...I smile back in holy communion...we exchange narco-tine and tar-nine...synched and pated in time…and return vague attention to the raucous mime ...) the insides of their homes
unable to bear the stench
spit them out once a year...
desperate nostrils flaring,
clawing the air
with insane sucks,
sniffing, sniffing
that next bargain 
sweet things cheap
cheap things sweet.

(Pooch don't like the shirt seller...I know he surely bites his arse from time to time...he got that look in his eye...and the painful wheeze as he nurses bruised ribs as he breathes...and the shirt seller got this scar on the fabric of his pants...he glares in supportive evidence and seethes...there's an adult buried in a booth full o' slippers...with his head buried in a children's book. with a fish on the cover…eh? Flipper? ...maybe he burying in his past…maybe he learning children…maybe he learning his self…but wait! …hold up…he got it wrong…the book is wrong side up… he shielding his self as the rain slips down…oh lordy lordy…he’s flipped the por flipper…  I laugh and point out the slipper seller... to the lil fella...he gives him a reverent look ... I giggle knowingly... he smiles benignly...ya brother o'mine...I tickle his chin...he doon national dooty he is...we bow to him once in unison... his brand says "omega"... we look for the last word… we look for each other...we shake each others heads...and get back to the smoke and saliva)

They turn within without 
screaming over the rest of the screamers
as they are screamed at by yet other screamers
who wear slippers on their hands
bought half price from the lil fella's hero
selling shirts at half price
to women bearing husbands at full price
and screaming children at full board and lodging only
no love here at all...
just desperate hands clapping slippers
and screamers
outside in... upside down ... inside out ... UGH!

(and so this frothing sea of insanity…parts in waves around our island of humanity…and bumps into each other…rather than give either of us any bother…shoots us frightened glances…rather than smile and take their chances…unable to give me the benefit of their lies…they avoid mine and look instead in the doggerel’s eyes…maybe they think my look is  worse than his sight…maybe they think my bark is worse than his bite…maybe they’ve given it all they got…maybe they are terrified of what they are not…maybe they are just too tired…and perfumed and wired…who knows…they don’t…I care…they won’t…they stare…and I too agree with them on this…and stare …until human foot falls inches from his snout...I cover me eyes...pooch merely barks..."BEEEEEEF" opens me eyes kinda careful like... holy shit… he barks in soprano...oh mah gawwwwwd..."BOOOOOF" I mimic him in bass and we exchange startled looks...I make like a sneeze and he makes like a wheeze...I grab his ear...point it to a human paw armed with a slipper..."go on dude...take the slipper  and run...go on...get some fun"...he gives me the "areyanuttersorareyajustinsane" look...I return that by giving him a back rub...he don't like it...he got bruised ribs ta nurse I remember...dang...I mumble sorries and he whispers no-probbies...then he snarls at me...I make like "whatthefuck"...he gives me the "nahhhhh" sneer...I back off... we sniff each other from a distance...i smell honest dog... he smells dishonest nicotine...we decide to respect each other...whew...i want me arse intact ... don't mind the fabric ... just the rear...end...i think he decides that he likes his space…I decide ta abide by his decision...and whimper off a foot or three and hop on the church steps ta pace...he staggers ta his feet...we smile boyishly at each other... and grin at our mutual dishonesty...we are neither... young... nor need ta be)  

what a mess ... poor nation o'mine
they toss non-money at non-entities
they toss signs upon hearts
they toss crosses upon ballot papers
they toss life at lust and sin
they vote their innards a new beginning...
they vote the new year in ...
the old government votes them in...
they yay for assault and plunder
and claps and screams and thunder
and homes, new years and fame
and fear and fall and shame...
I giggle again
and tongue the pain
as pooch registers his vote
in golden honesty
against a lamppost...
along the lines of rain.

(the lil fella blinks at me...I return the salute...he gives me sorry-sorry looks and walks off...I give him so-long-'ol-fren looks and slink off...we knows where each of us be goin’...him to wash the nicotine off his bare skin and shine... me to lick the spit from off of mine and pine)

                                                                                    (Pagoda, Nugegoda, April 2001)

Please don’t piss me off by not liking that one. At least, it was a rare moment in my life when I managed to network myself into a comfortable position with real things and beings? I am begging your indulgence here friends. Please. It’s this this-here kick-ass reality I am talking about. God knows I’ve had problems coming to terms with it and am rather proud of myself on the few occasions that I do. Now, the virtual variety of reality is something else again. I have no problems with that at all. If you ever met me online you would not have found me begging for indulgence - or anything else for that matter. There, networking is easier and no one needs to convert a sidewalk into a sitting room in order to achieve it.

[1] The Sinhalese and Tamil New Year which happens around the 14th of April – the transition of the Sun from Pisces to Ares
[2] Sir, your shirt is very nice

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