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The bomb at the roof-top restaurant & Against Colombo

by Eric Illayapparachchi
9 August 2021

Translated from Sinhala to English by Gaya Nagahawatta 

Translator’s note

In translation, I need to find the voice of the original in the target language.

Eric Illayapparachchi is a Sinhala writer who works across genres. His work explores a range of perspectives, from the mundane everyday to the exotic—as well as perspectives of those who do not have a voice. The most colourful of Eric’s poems are so immersed in Sinhala culture and idiom that I would categorize them as untranslatable. The two poems translated here describe the war in Sri Lanka and the urban chaos it caused. In his devastated urban world, it seems that only nature and wild creatures enjoy any measure of happiness. My translations are an attempt to capture the myriad images in his work in all their suggestiveness.


The Bomb at the Rooftop Restaurant


Free of routine worries

sky-high on feathery softness

snugly seated in cushioned comfort

I sipped good liquor

when the Tigers surrounded,

shot and grounded my dream


As my dream sprinted, naked

as a girl child on the Nagasaki highway,

various photographs sourced from BBC News

appeared in local newspapers


Later, after the battle fire died,

my ghostly dream, wrapped from feet upward

with rust-gathered injection needles protruding,

was centrally installed at the State Art Gallery—

called a modern art sculpture


My healed dream muses upon the lost legs

and lies wheelchair bound.

On days when the sky is not dark,

it gazes up at the nurse moon white among the clouds.


Against Colombo


The angered devil, the sun, approaches,

splits shutters and unlatches windows;

sharp fingernails pry open sleepy eyes

forcing me to observe

the still sleeping, rag-covered city in disarray


A baby cries on a pavement cradle.

The company cow selling milk powder

forces the teat onto the prostitute’s child


The fanning ocean cools the noon heat,

making doves fly gladly,

their wings flapping in delight


Engaged in a hundred-day hunger strike

at the base of the Olcott statue,

labourers’ eyes register

the fate of strike action gone wrong


A poet roaming in the city of Fort,

wearing a drab national dress and Nehru headdress,

sells poetry leaflets


The thugs of Fort are apprehended,

grabbed by their throats.

I accompany them to file a case against Colombo.

Return to the collection

Illustration by Tahira Rifath

About the Author

Eric Illayapparachchi

Born in a suburban village close to Negombo, a coastal township, Eric Illayapparachchi is a well-known poet, novelist and short story writer in Sri Lanka. Tailorbird is the English translation of his novel Pradeshi.  He also wrote the opera Agni for a Sri Lankan maestro and adapted Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis for Asian cinema. මීගමුවට ආසන්න වෙරළබඩ ගමක උපන් […]