Made from wood of a tree, nurtured in the Vanni forest
The tree bears fruits, yellow, plump, small and sticky, very sweet
The old carpenter carved its legs and drew motifs
The sweet aroma and taste stem from the bed mixed with the scent of my child who sleeps on it
I softly touch it
And the finger tastes like manna.
Under the bed lie many stories of many people
Who disappeared forty years ago, near Kalani Gangai
Story of a friend who walked along Bullers road, happily thinking of his new-born
Her face yet to see
She grew up seeing him in a photo
Of a student who was taken amidst her protesting shouts near the Ananda Coomaraswamy
residence of Jaffna University
Twenty-five years ago
Never seen again
Her earrings returned to her sister
A letter written on a crumpled paper
With the name of her husband in prison without charge for years
Her voice trembling “I am afraid”
All piled up underneath the bed
The questions, protests of many
Outpouring of anger, tears, years of frustrations
The bed listens to all of them
Stories of the hundred and fifty-eight families around the Eastern University
Of thousands humiliated when crossing checkpoints
Written and told in various phrasings
Waiting to be heard in the corridors of justice
Lend me the bed for a day
I will drink all the stories, histories, her stories
I become a silver urn studded with blue stars
Will transform the bed into a mat woven with purple, red and green
The mat will fly the urn to the goddess of justice.
Fly back to the room with a window, through which a creeper peeps
Return to its original form
On which the child sleeps
To the lullaby sung by her mother.
’Chitra’ is the pen name of Sitralega Maunaguru, formerly Professor of Tamil at the Eastern University of Sri Lanka. This poem was composed in Tamil on 25 January 2017.
Photo: Kumaraguru Kugamoorthy, Movement for Inter-Racial Justice and Equality, abducted 06 September 1990 in Colombo. Source by private arrangement.