Two Poems

Romesh Gunesekera

Turning Point

My host is a monk
on a long journey

from my grandfather’s
coast town, exploring

England like I did
these last dark ages.

Stopped temporarily
in a shared room

we meet on my less
noble travels:

discover we are
exactly the same age.

At ten I knew
I was misplaced;

he, at ten, also
made for change.

Twenty yards
of saffron robes

captured his boy’s
imagination,

while mine slipped
on the slopes

of Tagaytay. He grew
broad-shouldered,

decisive, unen-
cumbered in a shaved

head; I became
progressively with-

drawn, less certain,
curled.

Reaching our mid-thirties
– age of enlightenment –

he speaks, I listen
only half understanding

this language from my past.
I have stumbled

off the path, tripped
by his inflections.

Once we had in our
Colombo house

a Buddhist alms-giving
– feeding twenty monks.

We served, they ate.
This bright morning

at our breakfast
my laughing monk

serves me his home-
cooking, neatly

turning the tables
in a Manchester flat.

Pigs

They brought a live pig
for an Independence Day feast.
I was too young to be

in on the brainstorm
that imported this idea
into our unorthodox home.

The slaughterer was professional
but the squeals of the animal
lasted all day. Our household

of helpers and helped
expressed doubts: ‘the blade
is blunt ...’

        ‘... pig has no throat.’
Our back yard had never seen
anything quite like it.

The grey flesh
like a map of Europe
was brushed with a burning torch.

At dinner the pig’s head
with an apple in its mouth
grinned from a silver tray.

                 * * *

In London the pigs came
on metal hooks, ready-
gutted, from an abattoir.

My job was to carry
a hundred-dead-weight
into a metropolitan store.

I quickly learned the art:
chucking English carcases
off my back.