Photo: 	Imagebook/Theekshana Kumara via Getty Images
Photo: Imagebook/Theekshana Kumara via Getty Images

BooksSeptember 8, 2023

The Friday Poem: ‘Six Am in Colombo/ Cinnamon Gardens’ by romesh dissanayake

Photo: 	Imagebook/Theekshana Kumara via Getty Images
Photo: Imagebook/Theekshana Kumara via Getty Images

A new poem by romesh dissanayake.

Six Am in Colombo/ Cinnamon Gardens



on the way to colombo 7

cinnamon gardens

holding back vomit on the school van

because      the heat

because      the coconut oil in the boy’s hair next to me has long gone rancid

the driver points the aircon in my direction and checks the air
flow with his hand

i see a boy get a 1m wooden ruler snapped over his head
because he spelled cat with a ‘k’

i saw a komodo dragon’s tongue slithering through the grass
i was supine staring up at the sun wishing the clouds
weren’t so far away

i was run over by that same van by that same driver
right outside that same school
my bag snagged on the axle
the driver pinched the breaks, panicked sped off

we were both thinking of our families

we use mosquito nets as repellent
and count money under our mattresses
we are planning our escape

the same time we won the cricket world cup in ‘96
the same time murali was called for chucking
the same time arajuna ranatunga’s full belly
scampered between wickets
the same time we blew up villages up north
to lentil proportions

they played billy ocean’s when the going gets tough,
the tough gets going
over a montage of the best shots from the final
a victory lap
but when the going gets tough the educated emigrate
and when the going got rough
we sold wood apple juice
sealed in small plastic tubes
with a comb and a candle
and bought three
wet summers worth in airfares

mum enters a competition on the back of a laundry powder box
i win a game boy and pokémon blue

i collect the rubber skins inside of coke bottle tops
under the bleachers at school sports day in newtown
sixteen more and i’ll have a new alcatel phone

all my friends are asleep so i text random numbers at night
under the covers
asking them if they’ve got the time

i once saw my science teacher who was also a brother
throw a piece of chalk at hayden in the back of the class

neither of them asked for forgiveness
because it was such a good shot

my sister is christened and her christian name is now mary
my science teacher who is also a brother
is also her godfather
each year he sends her a postcard on her birthday
with nothing inside it

i am driving a white girl home on christmas eve at 4 in the morning
her bike’s in the boot
the beers i’ve had and the joint that got passed around
in the back of my mind

when a police car pulls us over
they don’t breath test me
or let me explain why i’m on my restricted
why my seat belt isn’t on
why my front bumper is dangling

please lord let me be a humble skuxx
drafting instagram posts on the plane

in london on boxing day coked up coked out
the part of me which i thought i knew
went straight through a fence
straight through the strait of gibraltar
i was sick of the sea

i was someone’s tinder date who fell through
i was all skinny jeans and trucker hats

i tell people i’ve only been sunburnt once in my life
to prove that brown people on tour are pretty much fearless

it’s okay to stay up past midnight
because i’ve only got two meetings in the morning
and one of them is online
and the other is with myself

and the corn should be ready stardew valley
and the cows need milking too
and i’m married and have two biracial children
zooming around pelican town on my horse
i give gifts to the villagers

it’s not money that’s important in this life
but gifts — gifts and tasks are important
not money
i just go around handing out gifts
collecting my corn
completing my little tasks

the way i’m used to describing my
self changing

i buried when i open the shop
next to babula and ded’s grave
then washed the bird poop off the bench we the loving living
sanded and varnished
one christmas

it hurts to remember
i’ve been putting this trip off for so long

i’m no good at keeping people alive
after they’ve gone

especially when they
passed in service of me


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are now being accepted until 30 September 2023. Please send no more than three poems in a Word document to

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