On Seeing a White Flag Across a By-Road

Only that white flag

bedraggled

rain-sodden,

announces your arrival

The sealed box

has defied

all identity;

has even stopped

speculation

about the way you died.

Your mother,

shocked,

benumbed,

whimpers in dull agony.

Your sister

her years crippled

Stoops by the dimming candle.

You, who fought for king and country

where are your plaudits?

where are the flowers?

where are the banners?

A bluebottle wails a panegyric.

Your comrades

locked in struggle,

have their duty performed;

They brought you home,

to lie in a familiar loam.

The nation has saluted you without haggle,

rest you now in heavenly peace.

From your nighbour’s house

blares the cricket news,

They drink Coca Cola and sit around:

the screen has gazers mesmerized

and they loll spell-bound;

from your compound’s end

popular music expletes.

Crackers explode:

It is the next door neighbour’s betrothal;

the reception’s at the Intercontiental.

the bluebottle hovers lovingly.

The candle waves unsure

the light etches silhouettes,

people file past your bier

they will bury you at sunset.

-Kamala Wijeratne

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