Yarl Panam* – A Docu-Poem

Rising to faces of
men turning into tigers
then parrots then leopards
Babies starting to read
at birth…
this being with “Its” face
tattoed in a white sheath
of guipure lace, “her” eyes
in deep pools
of mascara, hair
closely to “her” scalp
mouth opening in a
gaping hole in breaths
of foul air…

The eastern horizon blazes
in a tangerine flame
a big ball of fire
6.36 am reads the time
in Muruenddy
from there to Killinocchi
Elephant pass
clear lake lined
grassy fields abound
cool breeze swept
the sides
of the A9 –
a mere “one cart” track
in some of it…
fringed by the
stately Palmyrah
standing tall and erect
now, amongst the coconut
Mirusuvil, to Jaffna.

the city’s still barely awake
on an early morning Sunday.
simple alleyways
dusty byways
that unfurl
paths to your
mind’s recesses of
a time beyond
in nearby Tamil Nadu.

From the Sivan Temple
breezing through town
in speedy tuk-tuk
to Nallur
bring to mind visions of
Arumuka Navalar*.

downing our bags
we go where the road
beckons us on foot –
the majestic monument
to to God Kandasamy at Nallur
where men bare
upper torsos to enter
its revered portals
the largest temple to a
Hindu god on this potent land
dating back to 984 AD,
it’s told.

From here
to the Jaffna market.
pure sweet smelling gingelly oil,
the all purpose remedy and kitchen mate,
Nellie Crush in luminous green
a vitamin C enriched beverage
Grape wine of the dearest kind
all fruits of this arid benevolent earth.
Salted prawn in the brightest orange
dry balls (of something that looked
like) dry mud and chilli seeds –
“papadam” to be fried for your
rice and curry it seemed
crunchy sweet gingelly balls with treacle
crispy thin “parippu” vada
for after
palmyra jaggery in tiny woven baskets
(the eco-friendly toffee of times past)
“kotta kilangu” the hard dried root
of the palmyra – fibrous!

The wet market brims with
everything fresh
we are out of here
with a few purchases
and into the busy streets
lunch on the tantalising
“ulundu” vada and tea
in a kade
down the road
we go aimlessly in
the hot raging sun
toward the ramparts
of Jaffna Fort
toward a sign that reads –
Naga Deepa —–

An hour long wait
on a dusty roadside
and the bus takes us
75 miles along a narrow
road lined with clear
water of the serene
dotted with miniature shrines
in red and white stripes
where the grassy fields
herds of cattle grace
to ”Appadi podu podu podu
Appadi podu…”
belted out in the clanky bus
fuchsia shawl blowing
in the wind
I’m transported to a Nadu movie scene
the birds take flight
the crab and prawn traps
their mirror image
sticky thin
on the water, still.
a boatman in a catamaran
ploughs his singular boat,
ground covered
now here, now there
in shades of rust
yellow, lime, maroon, brown
mustard, orange
and was there pink, too…
feasting the senses
a palette unbelievable
we pass through the
village on a trail of
thatched palmyra leaf fences
and “Andiya” wells.
charred walls of bombed out houses
that appealed to the skies
for protection and shelter
the remaining signs of an
untold war
rusty carcasses of long abandoned
overgrowth on war machines

Winding our way
through the villages
we reach the pier.
The boat ride – tossing
and turning us about
like the
bus ride from Vavuniya
to Jaffna.

arriving on the other side –
just the single Banyan tree
to mark the spot
on the island of Nagadeepa
where the Buddha
had first
set foot on Lanka.
We Pay Tribute..
we walk through
the street of
vendors and
set our hands on objects
of palmyra
and reed handicraft…
worshipping at the Temple
to Goddess Patthini/
Nagapoosani Amman Temple,
this man follows me
on the boat
to the island
“are you married”
“are you Sinhala”
“I am 35” he says
“I am 53” I reply
he smiles
“you will be back
on the same boat?…”
he asks.

The pier lined with
dead coral
of all shapes and sizes
lead us away.
On to the boat,
perched up high
at the edge
we make our way
back, with the landscape
in full view
all around, the islands
afar, the water
about, the peninsular

On the bus the
time reads 6.30 pm
the sun a fiery
ball of huge orange
glow, behind us
the full moon
in yellowy whiteness
leading the way
in this twilight hour,
toward Jaffna.
City of smiles
city of glistening
aubergine skinned
enjoying the touch
of a peace long shattered
a scattered
military presence
still hold the reigns
until you are
and freedom
completely regained.

You are the
stately Palmyra
that stands
on the way
from Naga Deepa
while the other
parasitically clutches
in an eerie embrace,
the palmyra thrives
with its head held
high into the sky

By Sharmini Jayawardena

*A Shaivite and Hindu reformer,
he helped translate
the KIng James’s Bible into the Tamil language

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