Bilingual

(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

There are days the tongue,
Forgets which way to roll,

When I start speaking in Sinhalese
With an English accent.

I’m like the roti eaten with maple syrup,
Or the waffle blending with kithul honey,

And I look at myself in the mirror,
I don’t see skin bleaching or the brown tan

Spilling out, calling me in Sinhalease.
I remember the days when my father

Used to buy me Sinhalese poetry books,
Which I used to read in lyrical synchrony,

The rhyming words of a Sinhalese poem,
Which gets lost in free style.

Now I look at my father, nearing his 70th b’day
One eye proud of me – on what I have achieved

And the other, wishing I could be
More Sri Lankan in the tales I tell.

Its always a case of bilingualism.
How my Sinhalese has plummeted

While my English keeps on rising.
Would I be a white Tagore, perhaps not,

More like a brown Shakespeare
Who forgot the rhyme and lyricism.

And just like snowfall and heatwaves,
I’m asunder in language.

No hell freezing over, no native lyrics to show,
Only a gastropod plodding out

Searching for Stratford-upon-Kelani
To master my outlandishness

On a stage, where all men and women lie,
Acting out, a borrowed language.

My dad and I, look over the Sanskrit bridge
Two peas in a pod, two marbles in a pocket

Two languages, both offshoots of Sanskrit,
Only one beckoning me, to write.

I’m a traitor who looks sheepishly guilty
And yet wishes otherwise.

I glance through a book “Sudo Sudu” my father bought
Me when I was in 5th grade, that translates

To whitish white, as if my father knew
What was to come. My descent to the alien,

To become, like a piece of white chalk,
That forgot the limestone hills.

Bleached-white words like Shakespeare,
And yet a filled heart like Romeo.

Totally In love, with an English rose.

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