Broken Pottu ~ Poem by Mahesh Munasinghe
A poem by Mahesh Munasinghe inspired by the plight of children held inside the Sri Lankan military-run internment camps. Translated by Prasanna Ratnayake. Courtesy Amnesty.org
Bright red pottu
The point of your finger
Right here between our eyebrows
For both of us.
Amma puts hers first
Then she puts mine.
Remember me insisting
Me first, me first!
That day Dad give me a biggest hug, squeezed so tight,
Lifted me so high, laughing so loud.
At midnight he went out of the bunker.
Amma must have known he wasnt coming back
But still she smiled at me.
The day she went out of the bunker
Her pottu was still shining between her eyebrows.
Then her pottu went right into her head
And red blood came all down her calm, loving face.
Before then I only knew how to cry.
Then I knew how to shriek, to scream
Holding on to your body, Amma,
Here too our school is under the trees
But they dont take the register.
I dont mind, Im used to it.
The only thing different is
There are no bunkers here.
Sometimes my heart beats so hard
Its louder than the gunshots
And tears just shoot out when I think about you.
Please dont ask me about pottu
If Amma cant put it on me I dont want it.
And please dont teach us about parents,
I dont want to hear about them.
Its not only me; none of us want to hear it.