“The Water Buffalo, A Memorial and Dirty Dishwater”-Three Poems by Siri Gunasinghe

Three Poems by Siri Gunasinghe Translated by Professor Ranjini Obeyesekere

Siri Gunasinghe-(b: February 18, 1925 (age 90), Galle, Sri Lanka)

Siri Gunasinghe-(b: February 18, 1925 (age 90), Galle, Sri Lanka)

Water Buffalo, in Yala-pic: by PhantomMenace-Colombo/Singapore

Water Buffalo, in Yala-pic: by PhantomMenace-Colombo/Singapore

1. The Water Buffalo

My beard on fire

in haste, I was running, running down in the dawn,

bearing the burdens of life

all on my back;

at the edge of the road, in a large clump of grass

like a fat merchant spread eagled on his easy-chair

I saw you lie.

Both eyes closed;

and at the earth-shattering

battering of my feet

you did not even start.

Ears turned down;

my sky-thundering

lightning-like haste

did not surprise you.

Teeth unbrushed

face unwashed,

in the mountain’s moist lap

of lush marsh grass

mud splashed.

What if, like you

I too

could laze?

Tell me my buffalo,

you who can’t even stand

yes you, Reverend Sir!

Are you observing rites,

contemplating the impermanence of life,

belching with both eyes closed?

Or do you count beads

with each slow puff

of dilated nostril?

Like eye-flies slowly crawling

from a partly opened flower

are the thoughts that seem to teem

from those faintly twitching eyes;

what secret do they hold?

Head half-lifted up

spit drooling, lips that chap

like a toothless mouth chewing betel

all alone;

a lazy past was yours.

The full weight of earth and sky

bundled in one load

like a wisp of a cotton flake

you bear

on those handsome, upturned horns.

How do you do it

O buffalo?

You do not know of yesterday

nor have yet come to know today.

Tomorrow you know nothing of.

Undying time alone is yours.

You are my only idol

all in stone.

2. A Memorial

Forsaking me

leaving my limbs death-stiff

she left – disappeared –

went away;

and I became a prey

to a flock of wild-beast memories

a bloody prey.

The thick dark of time shrouds

but in the flickering light from my heart

her body glows

gleams before my eyes.

Like a cool streak of water

between rough rocks

she flows

soaking my heart.

The colour of clear skies is her.

The texture of trees and flowers is she.

All the colors of the world are her.

I struggle hard to shut her out

She lurks in the very lashes of my eyes.

The tough dry skin of forgetfulness

splits apart —

your eyes peer at me dear one.

I still see the trembling of your lips

as you embrace me.

The only happiness life has,

the one lovely object the world holds,

is she – companion of my loneliness –

vanished now;

the only woman who shared my loneliness.

3. Dirty Dishwater

Man’s mind is a kitchen

Learning, it’s dishwater.

I grovel, lapping it up.

Black crows flock

to drive me away.

It is not easy to escape.

Dishwater stagnates in the drain

with stale leftovers

scraped off broken plates.

No salt or flavor in it

nothing to fill one up.

Hurt by a hurled coconut shell



I still cannot tear myself away

from that drain.

All that gave life

to a lifeless existence –


The only flavour

in a flavorless life –

stale food.

Courtesy:The Island