DESH BALASUBRAMANIAM is a young poet. He was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in both the war torn Northern and Eastern provinces. He fled to New Zealand at the age of thirteen with his family on humanitarian asylum. His work has appeared in Mascara Literary Review, Blackmail Press, Lines Magazine, The Big Issue, Blue Giraffe, Electronic Poetry Network, Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) Online, Auckland Poetry and further work will appear in the next editions of Overland and Indigo Dream Anthology – And Again Last Night. He is currently working on his first poetry collection.

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       At six


       ––1

       Dressed in flared pants,
       a broom that swept the floor
       Each step. Rolled up sleeves
       ––James Dean of west
       (whom I never knew) or
       Rajini of east,
       his flick across the mane.
       At six, days were rather shades of green
                     I remain held in the same shirt––
       With a hat, oriental rings
                     a carved smile
       Mischievous––a lover once said (those
       who blossomed after evening sun).
       Roamed free
       in a land of war
       Carrying a curious nose
       thirsty hunger
                     leverage to raise my trodden
       Dusty alleys rained
       with yellow oleander––
                     her scented bosoms.
       even a boy felt love
       in a minor’s beat
       Neighbour’s sister’s best friend’s friend, who
       Ate the forbidden fruit of luckynut
                     ––in vain of her smuggled heart
       foot pump in her throat, the long tube
       Five hour journey to stop the bird in flight
       resembling the vows of village wedding (without
       dancing of drums).
       “Learn to swim” my uncle screamed
       threw me into the temple river
                     tied to two dried coconuts
       Catapult shots at the grey langurs
                     Their black faced anger
       Stole an Alice-band for my Islamic sweetheart
       my first year at school
                     procrastinated on an interracial marriage
       Long division rather left me
       with undivided headaches
       I preferred chasing turtles in the sand
       And not my visits to ganja addicted
       tailor
                     ––the unfriendly zipper
       My boyhood screams,
       circumcision by the pants maker––
       Flared.
       Midnight runs through the fields
       where they lay broken their past
       Burning light
                     ––to prove manhood
       In childish years.
       Chasing the venomless viper
       coiled in the arch of window
       My father’s discipline
                     To stand on stature of a teak chair
       speech of apology to the house
       While gaze of grandfather
       held within a four sided frame, in black,
       incense raised in garland
                     ––the white washed walls


       ––2

       How seasons altered
                     monsoon without rain
       fade in leaves of forgotten history
       She came,
       dressed in copper green
                     ––violin of dissonance
       eyes that rolled in throw of dice
       Those stories of old women
       told at night beneath the banyan trees

       unknown to her name
       some called it fate, others
       Liberator’s cousin.
       charcoal smeared
       painted our lives on slaked lime walls
       on hand drawn floors
       up in the moonless sky
       hanging rags in power-less lines
       in rivers that ran to tell the sea
                     Leaving her Mona Lisa stray on the streets

       Since––I never stare,
                     nor hold red in my hand

                     my portraits remain without…