Before Her

Before her I am Thespis – unflinching, playing my part,
Ignoring every laden ache metered on my heart.
Before her I am Hector – yet Heaven tips the fates
And I am found here languishing – and she, beyond my gates.
Before her I am Caesar, and she the Rubicon
But I shall drown beneath her might while she rushes on.
Before her I am Vulcan – ugly, monstrous – lame
Twisting words and praise for her sweet and splendid name.

But now I am a poor man, bloodied, robbed and vile
And to mourn the truth of it – unseated by a smile.

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Show Me You Are God

Show me you are God,
For I am in the pit
And within these seven walls
There is no place to sit.

Show me you are God,
For there is silence still.
All my friends have turned away
And wish me naught but ill.

Show me you are God,
For I am full of wounds
Wrought by your unseeing eye
Fixed upon my tomb.


I’m sorry I’m not a 100% Christian. I cannot eternally pretend that I am at my 100% and eternally praise God. I’d rather be honest and genuine here and make it clear when I absolutely cannot pursue God. Were we not made from dust? I’m just being honest here. Sometimes I argue and get utterly frustrated with Him — like this. I can almost here people brand me a heretic, but to hell with it. I’m just being honest here.

Tempus Fugit

Seven O’ clock — twenty peals
From the belfry, brown and old.
Darting past on scattered heels
We would not heed those words of gold:

Tempus fugit irreparabile

 Eight O’ clock – with shuffling shoes
Through the Chapel’s crimson aisles
Sportsmen stretch and others snooze
While Father Lloyd sees all and smiles.

Tempus fugit irreparabile

Nine O’ clock — “Miss, may we eat?”
Kenny asks and Miss declines,
“Now it’s time for square rule sheets”
(And Cos and Tan and their friend Sine.)

Tempus fugit irreparabile

Ten O’ clock — the brave skip class.
Mister Maurice walks his rounds.
“I say Silva! You jackass!
Get to class you bloody clown!”

Tempus fugit irreparabile

‘leven O’ clock — Interval.
Cricket bat and ball and pitch
Chinese rolls, and milk packets
— We were poor but we were rich.

Tempus fugit irreparabile

 Twelve O’ clock – all silent now.
Prefects peek through each class door
“Malli konde kapapan!
I’ll give you quad, you rowdy boar!”

Tempus fugit irreparabile

One O’clock – with eager ears,
Half-packed bags that bell we wait.
For what are but a schoolboy’s fears
Past that creaking Chapel gate?

Tempus fugit irreparabile

It is two now – we are old
And now we heed those words of gold:

Tempus fugit irreparabile


I must have been in College Forms B when I discovered these words by Virgil engraved into the college belfry (it always rang twenty times – never more). Now, a few years out of school its words sting true. The quote, which means ‘time flies irretrievably’ is a grave reminder of all the changing scenes of life. The quote sometimes appears as “…fugit irreparabile tempus” in other sources.


Certain phrases require an explanation for the non-Sri Lankan and non-Thomian reader.

– Malli Konde Kapapan – A colloquial way of saying ‘cut your hair’. Being a boarding school long hair and stubble were frowned upon.
– I’ll give you quad – ‘Quad’ was a popular form of disciplining rowdy boys in STC. It involved making students run around the quadrangle. Don’t gasp. It wasn’t all that bad. Toughen up, buttercup.
– Interval – Recess.

Ps. I have mentioned the name of an actual classmate of mine. I hope you don’t object (chill wenne machan) this was done with absolute fondness haha. All names including that of everyone’s favourite headmaster were mentioned in fond memory.

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For I Am flawed

Who beat the brown upon my skin?
Who cleft my teeth and carved my grin?
Who pressed my eyes into my face?
Who stole from me the forms of grace?
Who scored and cut my ugly jaw?
Who strung my throaty croaking caw?
Who struck my scalp with wilting hair?
Who smote me dark and never fair?

Then tell me not, for I am flawed
That “Ye were knit by hands of God.”


All The White Man’s Children

What is the white man’s burden?
Can I find it in my fields?
Does he stir it with his bourbon?
Is it the rod he wields?

And all the white man’s children,
These heirs to his estate
Lithe in laps of luxury
Unbridled by its weight.

Ever suckling at the bosom
Of privilege and power
The world is their inheritance,
Theirs is the chosen hour.

And we who toil beneath them
Dealt the brown man’s hand
Must ever labour thrice as hard if
As equals we dare stand.

–  S.S. Bartlett

A controversial topic, yes. My main point here is not colonialism, but the inequality that is still ripe and approaching putrescence in the modern age. As a student fortunate enough to study in in Europe I have encountered a modicum of contemporaries who are oblivious to the privilege they have inherited. Their lives are sans the sort of prejudice we from the “non-Western World” must endure. Upon my return home I have come to realise that had a student from my home country been afforded the same opportunities many of my European friends had, they would have reaped its fruit threefold.

Note. I would have gladly avoided colour had I not been so keen to allude to Rudyard Kipling.

While Wise Men Wander

The Magi met the shepherds, whose tongues were lit with praise
Along the road beneath the star that split in many ways

“Whither rests this King whom Prophets did divine?
We have wandered many days to see this lord sublime.
His are all the nations, people, and the lands
His alone the sceptre, won with wounded hands.
Men will call him ‘master’, ‘prince of peace, and life
And among his flock and fold, ‘saviour from our strife
Pray tell then joyful shepherds, where is this King we seek?
This King of whom the people say will bruise great Caesar’s cheek.”

 The shepherds paused a moment before their mouths could stir
And eyed the gifts beneath their robes — the glint of gold, and myrrh

“Of this King, we know not, but if you seek the star
Further Westward you must go, but do not wander far
Past rolling hills of poppies, crimson at the stem
You will find a stable bare, in little Bethlehem
No regal lord resides there, good and kindly strangers
Merely by the ox and ass — a babe upon the manger.”

Then with haste to lay their gifts those tired Wise Men three
Beheld the heir to Eden’s stain and dark Gethsemane.

S.S. Bartlett

2-the-three-wisemen-simon-secret(The Three Wise Men – Robert Cunningham. Source)

Whose Wounds Are These?

Whose wounds are these that I pressed down?
Whose temple bears this thorny crown?
Whose tears fall forth and stir this flood
Of sweat and sin, and my Lord’s blood?

Whose voice was that which trembling cried,
“Behold before me Death has died.”
Which then with final breath began
The restoration of all man?

Who was, who is – and is to be,
Whose name is writ in history;
The King, The Lion, Lord, and Lamb
The one who whispers, “Child, I am.”

– S.S. Bartlett

Thy Kingdom Come

“Thy kingdom come,” the old man wept
As beneath the clouds he slept
Upon those streets of stone and steel
Where men before their wealth did kneel

“Thy kingdom come,” the lady sighed
Walking past the boys who cried
And raised their hands to shout a word
Which from her youthful days she’d heard.

“Thy kingdom come,” the mother shook
— Her son filed by without a look
To the rattle of some marching band
Spurring him to far-flung lands.

“Thy kingdom come,” the soldier prayed
As the turret spat and sprayed
And scores of lead soared overhead
To count his friends among the dead

“Thy kingdom come,” the surgeon heaved
Before the iron tool could cleave
The struggling boy upon the bed
All swathed in white and rushing red.

“Thy kingdom come,” the small one said,
Scrambling through those fields of dead
Where murderous men had only sown
Those crimson streams of ill renown

Hear us God, thy kingdom come,
Establish yours — Ours overrun.
Thy kingdom come, ours is lost —
And for what prize and at what cost?

S.S. Bartlett


Note : For many youth in my country  violence, wickedness and war (especially war) have had some sort of a presence and impact in our lives. While war has not affected me directly  I have seen its aftereffects ; beggars, blind men, amputees and orphans. This has no disturbed me, but allowed me to acknowledge the violence men have sown themselves and the discord with which we have overridden our lives. It is for this reason that I believe God’s divinity should transcend our ways and be applied in our lives

 

Cast Your Net And Drag Me Nearer

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Cast your net and drag me nearer
Through the ocean’s trying tide,
Take this broken boat and steer her
To the course you’d have me bide.

I am stubborn, blind and beaten,
These rocks have torn my hull and keel
Take these oars my pride has eaten
And teach me Lord to weep and kneel.

Sweep my solemn breath and break it
Drown me in unending light
So should the way before grow graver,
I may dare this ocean’s might.

When the tempest turns towards me,
When the lightning tastes the tide
Hold me, God and split the waters
My admiral, and my guide

With you O God to be my captain
With you to seize this thrashing sea
What ocean’s tempest dare defy us?
Who dare be my enemy?

S.S. Bartlett
Image Source : Getty Images

I Would Not

NOT A PERSONAL POEM. READ NOTE BELOW.


Slit my veins in sleep one night,
I would pass in peace.
That I endure these darkening tides
Is pain that will not cease.
Many eyes have seen me,
But their sight averts mine own
And upon this wretched rock,
This dirt which I call home
They flog me and inflict me
Their words like whips and thorns
So please do slit my veins this night,
I would not see the morn.

Drown me in that lake one day,
I would gargle green
And watch her slowly slip away,
And leave this world unseen.
I have watched in silence
This thing they say is love
And whimpered at the God who made it
For unanswered prayers above.
Whose hands then made me monstrous?
Whose words then slurred my speech?
So drown me in that lake this day
The night is grave and bleak.

Throw me off a cliff one morn
I would meet the stones
Which moan amid the rolling waves
And have them break my bones.
What worldly works could hurt me?
What ill fate twist the heart?
This dead cold space has had its place
For many years now past.
Wailing winter whipped me
And spring still lingers grey
So throw me off that cliff this morn
I would not see the day.

S.S. Bartlett

Note : I must stress that this poem was not written for me, but for people (friends mostly) whom I know deal with bouts of depression and self destruction. I am grateful many took the time to contact me once this poem was published, but it was an exercise and a tribute to my friends.