Give me a sip of water
for my lips are parched, my throat too dry
to speak and I will sing you a song
of the Sahel as I remember it. A song soft
and gentle like the wind in the trees
as it whispers on its way.
A song so beautiful the clouds will snatch
it up and send it straight to you sitting
inside your room far away
in a distant corner of the world.
Give me a mouthful of water so sweet
so cool, that I may tell you stories of the Sahel
as it was before it came to this. Stories
about the Tuareg’s adventures across
lands or the Fulani’s search for grazing grounds
for their cattle, stories that will make your
eyes open wide in amazement
and leave you thirsting for more.
Give me a pail of water to wash
the dust off my body
turned red brown like the earth
around me. A little water that I may wash
away the flies that hover over me,
all the time,
calling, calling to others to come
join in the feast that is me. I want to cleanse
myself once more, to remember
the silken touch of the waters
as it caresses my skin.
Throw me a shower of water, nay
a deluge to stitch the cracks in the earth
below me as I lie here wondering
if it will open up and swallow me one day.
A shower so heavy
it will make the crops grow tall and strong
so we may have food to eat. Finally.
I look up in hope and wait for the rains
that forget to come. I wait for the people that left
me here on my own.
I wait for you under this tree
that offers no shade from the sun as it glares
at me from above. My mind drifts
to faraway places like cattle grazing
in some distant land searching always searching
but not finding. When will this end?
* (First Published in Song of Sahel, 2012, Plum Tree)
Shirani Rajapakse is a Sri Lankan poet and author. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013. Her collection of short stories, Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Shirani’s work appears or is forthcoming in, Linnet’s Wings, Spark, Berfrois, Poets Basement, Earthen Lamp Journal, Asian Cha, Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry Review, About Place Journal, Skylight 47, The Smoking Poet, New Verse News, The Occupy Poetry Project and anthologies Poems for Freedom, Voices Israel Poetry Anthology 2012, Song of Sahel, Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology, World Healing World Peace and Every Child Is Entitled to Innocence. She blogs rather infrequently at shiranirajapakse.wordpress.com.