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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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.

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

 

The Devil, She Said. – S.S. Bartlett

The dull ember of an Autumn’s evening finally gave way to the dark. The wind carried a chill in its whisper but the horsemen continued anyway, their steeds clapping heavy rhythms onto the cobblestone path.

“How much further?” The heftier one asked.

“Not much.” Replied the other. “Just ahead of those trees. That’s where she wanted us to meet her.”

“You know.” Said the man, whipping his burly arms upon the reins. “I do not trust her. There’s somethin about her.”

“Oh, come off it Blon. You’ve been at her throat since the day we met. If she’s got what we asked for, we pay her and head back to Hawbyrne. The Lord will be happy to hear that bastard is dead and we get paid. Simple as that.”

“Fine.” Blon grumbled. “But I’m keepin my sword at the ready. Just in case, Hawker.”

“Aye, aye. Do whadever you want.”

The trees were just ahead. They stood like eager children playing a pretend battle. Hawker remembered when he had wanted to be a soldier, plundering towns and winning sighing women. Now he hated it. Towns had nothing to plunder these days and the women hated him anyway. It was probably because of the warts. Hell. It was the warts.

The woman was there, just ahead. Her grey robes snapped in the wind. Even in the light of the torch she held Hawker could scarce see her face. Guess the men called her the Ghost for a reason. Blon jumped off his horse almost eagerly. He kept a hand on his sword. The idiot had really meant it. Hawker would talk to the oaf later.

“Do you have it?” Hawker dismounted. His feet crunched against the leaves. Heavens, he hated that sound.

The woman nodded. She unhooked a bag from her waist and tossed it to Blon who almost dropped the damn thing. He peered inside. Hawker could just make out the face of Derin Pillmar staring blankly back at Blon. The oaf blinked stupidly at the dead man’s face.

“Head’s there, Hawker.” He said finally.

“The amulet?” Hawker asked, turning back to the Ghost. She removed it from her neck. It was a beautiful thing, emeralds set in gold, encircling a single sapphire. Hawker’s master would have paid heavily for Derin Pillmar’s amulet, but he found killing his own brother and simply stealing the thing to be much cheaper.

“The gold.” The Ghost said. Her voice sent a shudder down the spine. Hawker complied anyway and removed a purse, tied messily to his clothes. He opened it, revealing the glow within. The woman would have to be happy with it. She could not make the same money elsewhere. If she sold the amulet, her people would find her. She was a ghost, aye, but even ghosts needed to hide from their own dark pasts at times. Hawker watched her waiting for affirmation of some sort, but then she slipped the amulet back onto her neck.

“It is not the amount promised.” She said calmly.

Hawker almost choked. “Surely –”he began to protest, but the woman cut him off.

“Tell your master it is not what was promised.” She began to walk away.

“Now listen here, little thin’.” Blon said grabbing her by the shoulder. It was the last he said.

Hawker blinked. How had he missed it? Out of nowhere a blade lay wrenched in Blon’s gut. The big man groaned before he slipped on the fallen leaves with a solid crunch. He did not stir. The man had been alive seconds ago. The Ghost turned to him. He could scarce see the woman’s face, but she was displeased. Hawker fumbled for his blade, cursing as he did. God, I’m going to die, I’m going to die. His fingers failed him. The Ghost grabbed him by the throat. He gasped for another breath of air. How was the damned woman so strong?

He felt the trickle of piss down his pants.

“I will not kill you.” She said through gritted teeth before finally letting him go. Hawker fell into the dry leaves, grasping at his neck.

The woman turned away from him walking into the darkness.

“Tell your master I have a buyer for the amulet.”

“Who?” Hawker managed to choke.

“The devil.” She said. “The devil.”

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This is my first attempt at a short story, ever. I have no idea what drove me to write it, but I did it anyway. Criticism is most welcome. 

 

Resolution

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Gazing over the horizon of past times
Of both life’s great and minor symphonies
Demanding to fashion coming years to our designs
We fail in maintaining our own dignities.

We step forth into coming ages in various degrees.
A few in the arms of simplicity; hallowed halls,
Kempt ones ready to end and start years in peace
Ever realistic, none of them to the ways of men are thrall.

But what of those who end and begin theirs
In the same state of intoxication, clouded in smoke,
Blinding smoke that makes them unaware
Of the coming years? It only chokes.

All men will enter New Years with young hopes
Many with grand dreams thinking themselves clever
Every new year this we attempt
Nay, but every day we fail to endeavour

S.S. Bartlett

Image not owned.

O Holy Night.

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O holy night, We praise thee for thy birth
Sleep thou now quietly baby-king of earth
Thou babe of bliss come from holy skies,
With the coming morrow thou shalt arise.

Thou shalt walk on water, turn it all to wine
Cast out the evil, chase them all to swine
Thou babe of bliss, yet born so low and base
With the coming morrow, thou shalt bruise Caesar’s face

Thou shalt preach and heal and make the darkness light
Yet comes the morrow, and for now goodnight.
Sleep thou gentle babe of bliss
Smile thy smile of glee
For those you love shall kiss thee
And nail thee to the tree.

My faith in God has made me realise that society celebrates Jesus’ birth more than it celebrates the completion of his life’s mission. I was inspired by a particular carol that to carries a similar message, thus I must not be credited for the idea or tone of the poem. The name of the carol escapes me now. 

Tidings- S.S.B., Sri Lanka