To the poor nanny’s son at the rich resort

Why do you look so bewildered, little one?
Is it the strangeness of life in a resort—a place where only some of those lives belong?

Are your eyes struck open wide, looking for the invisible line
that clearly separates the two kinds of lives lived here?
—the ones paying to simulate this illusion, and the ones paid to nod their heads to the delusion?

Or is it at the irony of your mother having to watch three children to keep the boat afloat, while she has no eyes left for your sinking hole?

There lies the line—right there, between you overjoyed to the point of disbelief at your own luck of finding yourself in a crystal blue swimming pool, and jaded Derrick whose heart stays faded despite overpriced ice cream and everything beautiful.

There lies the line, between you unable to look away from the most incredible view, and Stacey whose eyes cloud blind from the phone screen.

I hope you remember that line, little one. Because it’s the line that shows how money can, in fact, buy happiness; but never ever wonder.

2017, A man called Ab. Joe Roberts, Ella, Sri Lanka.

To the Prostitute’s man by the Marine Drive Supermarket

Five forty am:

I watched you watch her

try to scrape the last chance of last night

before it faded fast into the sunlight.

– with an old man in a clean sarong

and a shirt ironed to a crispness

-that ratted a wife back home.

 

Although while scanning her shape through the skirt,

he licked his lips,

he was the type who kept his nose too clean

to go behind the Keells supermarket with her kind;

Besides it was getting too bright to hide.

 

She came back to you defeated.

 

~

 

They say you both would do anything

for a shot of heroin,

and that it was all your doing.

Is that true?

 

Did you ever love her?

Before the hell holes, strangers’ invasion and teeth rot,

was she ever beautiful?

I hear her curse you, shrilling the night

but in the morning she is still around

in the thick of your shit fight.

 

What is she holding on to in you?

– is it something sad and sentimental like

the music trapped between the dust on a forgotten wedding bouquet?

– or is it something logical like

the last thread of convention?

– or something dignified like

’till death do us part’?

– or is it just reason lost in the wind

somewhere in the mundane plains of habit?

 

 

~

 

Seven am:

Sunday morning

as Colombo lay dry sleeping,

and hungover cars were leaving

with leftovers of Saturday night and Pillawoos,

I saw you again.

 

Standing in a daze of junk

with one palm outstretched to the ocean,

it looked as if you were blessing

the great, big sea of salty tears.

 

Was that for her?

                    

Boy on East 5th Street (4th of July), 1984.
Image – Ken Schles – Boy in the East 5th Street at the height of heroin, 1984

To the little Southern girl on the beach: Part two

It’s alright, catch your breath.

You’ve run so far, she can’t see your pain;

Your little friend- the prettier one

with scar-less skin

and a face that peaked too soon to kill

a human heart.

 

Babe, have you ever heard of the tale

of a little, ugly duckling that lived by a lake?

It’s true.

I’ve seen it living, breathing by a convent wall,

at a dancing class, a high school fair, and at last

growing between two little girls in the seaside South.

 

You know babe,

legends are made from truth,

flesh and clay.

How do you think

I know your story

so well?

 

Don’t worry little duck, you’ll do fine,

because pain teaches delicate things.

But, her…she’ll die a slow death in her heart.

 

In warped time and place

I’ve seen her married to an idea’s face and boredom,

because she never knew beauty’s labour.

                     

dayanita-singh-gayle-and-sister-goa-2000-2005-deutsche-bank-collection
Image – Dayanita Singh, Gayle and sister, Goa 2000/2005. Deutsche Bank Collection ©