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 A Collection of Poems

 

by

 

Ziska Lawless

 

LAUNCH RIDE ON THE SENANAYAKE SAMUDRA

 

 

Success upon a trip like this you’d judge

By wealth of knowledge, no mirage,

Gained of bird and wild life, nature and creation,

That dwell unfetterd by our civilisation.

The Samudra’s water ripples gently, slowly,

Save where our launch is ploughing it boldly,

Around each stump, bleached, blackened, hoary,

Deteriorating and divest of virgin glory

They menace now unwary boating strangers,

Their falling, floating members, latent dangers.

 

Once, suffused with flora and foliage bright

There were warehouse and haven, wild life’s delight

Still cormorant and egret, and waterfowl remain

To nest, take wing, circle and perch again.

Deceptively below, ‘mid bobbing logs appear

Part tail, backbone or snout of crocs who peer,

And wait for falling eggs and faltering young

Who in flying fail and fall in jaws wide flung

Which snap, shattering the all-rhythmic strain

Of ripples, that rave and then grow calm again.

 

Afore, the jungle enveloping her charms

Stretches the green gloved open palms

Of the water’s frontiers, whereon is seen

Deer, red brown against the verdant green;

Some feed heads down, while other on the brink

Of the cool waters, take refreshing drink;

A few, alert, vigilant to impending harm,

Sentinels they, who give the signal of alarm,

When like a puff of wind, a dull red flash

They disappear into the tangled underbrush. 

 

Then, on a promontory we draw near

To the citrus orchards of Baduluwela

That village old, a part of which it shed

To give the Samudra a wider bed,

Attention centres on a hazy, bulky form

And what did seem a rock was but a pachyderm

With ears, and tail and trunk that swing unheeding

In constant cycle, uprooting, dusting, feeding

(In preference to all those jungle boughs)

The luscious grass into his massive jaws.

 

A setting sun illuminates the bold scene

Against a background of deepest bottle green

A sky emblazoned by that fiery globe

Is mirrored in the shimmering azure robe

Of placed water, on which lengthy shadows fall

As we step off and stand to survey all

Expectant, silent, straining ears and eyes

And face each other with a wild surmise,

Our hopes fulfilled, we now return at dusk

With memories of scenes so picturesque

 

 

DAILY MIRROR WEDNESDAY MARCH 30TH 1966


 

MOTHER

 

Enveloped in a busy, struggling world

She lives, but few have ever of her heard

Except perhaps in tones of sympathy

Of which she needs but least, her apathy

For worldly comfort, luxuries is strange

Humble and content, determined to estrange

Herself from worldliness, she seeks to gain

Heaven, instead of things mundane.

 

Her simple fancies, the little within her reach,

Dancing, music, films, just so much of each

Her solace are, when she is far removed

From members of her loving loyal brood,

Who come and go at varying intervals

Flooding with joy in those short spells

Her quiet, sober life, her failing health

To sustain which is greater than all wealth.

 

The way she lives, it surely is a grief,

That she will not accept what small relief

Is offered her in many varied forms

But to a pattern pleasing her conforms,

In sweet content, she ceases not to toil

And with patience, resignation, burns the oil

That still within her ‘Lamp of Life’ remains,

Till the flame dies – and she her reward gains.

 


 

PASSEKUDAH

 

 

They lap and they wash, those waves, swish, swash,

Not a roar or frightening splash,

So shallow and calm, you can come to no harm,

E’en the toddler enrapt in its charm.

 

Great Ocean renowned! This frontier you’ve crowned,

With allurements nowhere else found,

That they come from afar, and where ever they are,

Are they led by some strange guiding star?

 

Its simple and sound, the word gets around,

On a beach such as this you are bound,

To find sweet relaxation, free from vexation,

Peace, solace and sweet consolation.

 

There’s giggling and laughter, as they bob in the water,

On the shore, contentment and chatter,

Which all goes to show, there’s sure something more,

On this enchanted and sunkissed shore.

 

What e’er be the light, both day and night,

You’re a feast of pure delight,

In your gorgeous arrays, changed in so many ways,

By the whims of each passing phase.

 

Swathed in moonlight you’re show, like some rare precious stone,

Set in velvet of rich dark tone

Of the silhouette of palms, in whose encircling arms,

Is cradled your expanse of charms.

 

Then your beauty unshorn, with the coming morn,

Iridescent with bright hues of dawn

So placid and cool, rippling like a small pool,

Will capture e-en the heart of a fool.

 

O! such grandeur sublime, when Phoebus sanguine,

From his domain, celestial divine

Sets the waves all ablaze, and they dance in a craze,

And you’re one burnished shimmering haze.

 

Just one taste of this, like some enchantress’ kiss,

And you’ll crave all the while for this bliss,

So wherever you are, be it ever so far,

You’ll return to this Passekudah.

 

 

GAL OYA LAXAPANA POWER LINK

 

From the new town of Inginiyagala,

The offspring of Senanayake Samudra,

That surge of water harnessed so,

To provide water for the fields below

And Francis wheels that generate the power

In the Power House at Inginiyagala.

Here starts the line on its journey far

To the substation coming up at Badulla.

 

Two hundred and seventeen towers stand

Through foreign aid, Canada’s helping hand

Installed them, towers A,B,D and E,

Those stately structures plain for all to see,

Colossal they, and draped in misty fall

Or sun kissed, sixty nine feet tall;

Standing in close proximity, they define

The continuous span of the transmission line.

 

These giant skeletons towering to great height

Their flesh long decomposed, their bones bleached white,

Silver and gleaming, they now stand askance

And with their lofty heads around them glance

At all the obstacles they’ve hurdled o’er

With ‘seven leagued boots’, quite sixty feet or more

Of ‘right of way’ they’ve cleared, a wide passage, Off danger trees, and under brush and foliage.

 

O’er valleys ravines, hills and mountains they’ve walked

To take position – they can ne’er be baulked-

And there, legs firmly planted in the ground

They’re there to stay and never move around;

With no discrimination, without thought for rest,

To very corner, north, south, east and west,

On outstretched arms they reverently bear,

That precious gift to man ‘Electric Power’.

 

There is no doubting its efficiency,

The potential force behind all industry,

Setting the cogs of life’s machinery in motion

Its versatility rejuvenates the nation;

In humble home or office, mill and factory

From every daily task is removed drudgery

When ’Power’ is summoned, with never a hitch

By pressing a button or flicking on a switch.

 

 

GALO OYA NEWS 1962

A MOTHER’S SUPPLICATION

 

A mother prayed one August morn,

On a tenth I think it was,

For a daughter dear, her second born,

Who on her distant way then was,

To her music examination.

 

Heavenly Mother, ‘tis this I ask,

Give now to her Thy succour,

To one who well does every task,

Light and calm and vision clear,

And keen concentration.

 

Within her dwell, O! Mother dear,

That Thee, not will she stand

Before him, and play sweet and clear

With fingers guided by Thy Hand,

An excellent rendition.

 

Considering it was just grade three,

And a simple little theme,

Thought he, a cherub this must be,

The strains do sound so heavenly,

With supernal perfection.

 

But little did he ever dare,

That a Lady, Divine, Regal, Fair,

Had dwelt with the maiden there,

In answer to a humble prayer,

“ A Mother’s Supplication”

 


 

THE BEES

 

 

O! how I love the tiny bees,

Busily buzzing among the trees,

Flitting to fill, from flower and floret,

Each honey crop and pollen basket

And all the while on whirring wings

Winding their way to my heart strings.

 

One day a little hive I traced

And had it in a bee box placed

But when they flew to their old home

Leaving but few to guard the comb

The lid removed, they came and went

Industrious, on the errands bent.

 

In numbers they did swell and grow

The hive was now a pride to show

Spellbound and eager I beheld

The ceremonies that they held

Reconnaissance  flights made by the queen,

Before her nuptial flight, I ween.

 

One bright day they swarmed and then,

I watched with tense trepidation

Lest they should settle out of reach

And cause between us a wide breach,

When lo! Upon a real low leaf,

The chose to rest to my relief.

 

Silently, stealthily, with great care,

I scooped them and did proudly bear

In open hands this precious swarm

The queen held gently in one palm,

That thought, that feel, of feet so light,

Is pleasure recurrent, pure delight.

 


 

CRYSTAL

 

The older children whisper, there’s magic in the air,

We’re going to have a baby, we’re thrilled we must declare,

And brother who’s been baby, for well night twelve long years,

Will gladly relinquish his right for now it will be hers.

 

Preparations grow from strength to strength, there’s so much to be done,

And planned with careful forethought, of draughts and light and sun:

A certain room is soon transformed, with walls of pastel hue

And frothy drapings flecked with bows, in pink and white and blue;

Bunnies and dogs, cats and pigs, in friezes skip and run

Round basinet and cot and pram, and bath and flip-top can.

 

Momentum gathers – all is tense- at last she does arrive,

She does not breathe, her lips are sealed, Ah! She is not alive;

A cherub smile, blue starry eyes, are all shut out for us

Our cherished hopes so sadly crushed, we bear without a fuss.

 

“Crystal”, that should have been her name,

To a lonely grave is borne,

To the crest of a hill, forever still,

Unnamed, unchristened, unknown 

 

 

 

THE SONNET

 

Her thin hands cupped a courageous chin,

Dejected, she sat by the wayside,

Clear pools for eyes, that could not hide,

Character, that spake from within;

Beragged and weary, and worn and thin,

Determined, still to deride,

The crosses, the cares, the joys denied,

Perhaps as penalty for sin.

Skywards she gazed, a prayer took wing,

Confident, in Christ so just,

Consoled, inflamed, suffused she shone, She rose, and with purposeful swing,

To face the future, bravely I trust,

Despondence she shed, and was gone.

 


 

SONNY BOY

 

 

As months go by and life grows dull,

And wearily drags the waiting lull,

T’wixt long school term and holidays,

We then with joy recall the days.

 

If he was here or somewhere near

Like this and that he’d be

Each meal and skirmish, mem’ries clear

Make us long for one so dear.

 

In just a week, well he’ll be here

Our little son and heir,

Each one has something grand to say,

Of him, our topic of each day.

 

We wonder if he has grown tall

Or fat and still as small

But now we’ll know in a day or so

Of what’s for us in store.

 

Things laid aside, and out of view

Are polished to look new,

Cycles and guns and toys and books

Are given bright new looks.

 

The day has come let’s dance and shout

The treats he likes spread out,

The cakes baked by his sisters dear

Cornflakes and golden syrup clear.

 

A car stops by the garden gate

O! he can hardly wait,

He rushes now to those he’s missed

To be greeted, hugged and kissed.

 

Hither and tither the dogs do run,

To welcome him they think is fun,

They jump him down to kiss his face

With rather uncaninely grace. 

 

The house no more is prim and neat,

There’s a toy or book on every seat,

And noise from mechanical cars and trains,

And dinky toys and aeroplanes.

 

The radio now is tuned to cricket,

At a catch or slip or fall of wicket

Cheers and shouts ring through the house

And no one here has any grouse.

 

The vacation short soon comes to an end

In Almighty’s care our darling we send

To books and lessons and school all alone,

Leaving us sad and brooding at home.

 

God bless and keep him our precious boy

His companion be in sorrow and joy,

Guard and guide him help and bless

And strew his path with happiness.

 


 

THE FLAMBOYANT

 

We call you ‘Flame of the Forest’,

Cause your flowers are so vividly bright,

And our lordly jungles are double blest,

When adorned with your flaming light.

 

From hilltops I see you resplendent,

Against backgrounds of deep leafy green,

That clothe the landscape permanent,

Your conspicuous crest is seen.

 

We raided the forest to steal thee,

To enrich our home gardens fair,

We craved for your exquisite beauty,

So that’s why you are where you are.

 

The lawn you enhance quite undefied,

Is transformed to a florid shawl,

Dotted with flowers that float and ride

Capricious breezes, then fall.

 

Neath your chequered shade, the garden seat,

Seats old and young lovers,

Whose whispered tales you never repeat,

But weave in your glorious flowers.

 

As your blossoms gently drift from above,

I wonder what secrets they hold,

What fanciful dreams, what words of love,

Are revealed in their colours bold.

 


 

FAREWELL

 

I loved you so, dear Lanka fair,

That even though I travelled far,

I still to you returned, but then,

This truly was a fair Eden:

But now that wily snake has grown,

Which by dastardly acts are shown,

Lurks here, corruption to high degree,

It isn’t what it used to be.

 

For those who to the helm have come,

Victims to ‘Power Lust’ soon succumb,

And on the altars of sacrifice,

Our freedom slashed – at any price.

So from this country I must go,

Migrating to a foreign shore,

Leaving with anguish those I love,

My dear relations, truly I vow.

 

O! dearest country, land of my birth,

I fed on the fruits of your kind earth,

Bathed in your sparkling water falls,

Cascading down yon craggy walls;

Roamed forests watching wildlife bold,

Your towns and villages – so very old,

Romped in your fields and meadows green,

Loved and appreciated all I’d seen.

 

Flesh of my flesh, my dear loved ones,

As in my veins your own blood runs,

Bear not against me any grudge,

As warily to an unknown I trudge:

Seeking true freedom, not just for me,

But for my growing children three,

My tasks accomplished, my labours done,

But it’s for them, life’s just begun.

 

Now as I bid you a sad farewell,

Pray my endeavours will turn out well,

That bleak winds, snow and falling flakes,

Will thrill me as did sunny lakes:

That lands when dressed in twilight cloak,

Will transport me home, to you dear folk,

I’ll close my eyes and whisper a prayer –

And in your midst – I’ll surely be there.

 

 

 

From: Jeremy Perera
Sent: Friday, 19 May 2006 11:24 AM
To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;
Subject: Poems on Sri Lanka by Ziska Lawless
 

 

The attached word document carries various poems written by my Aunt Ziska Lawless who lives in England. These poems were written

when the family lived in Ampara in the 1950's to early 60's. Her husband, and my Uncle, Oscar Lawless was stationed in Ampara working for the

GODB. (Gal Oya Development Board.)

 

The family (daughters Norma, Fleur and son Ralston) bid farewell to the shores of Sri Lanka in 1963 for a new life in the UK and sailed on the ship

"Orion". They had another son "Kevin" who was born in England.

 

Please see her note below and enjoy the attached poems, some of which were published in SL newspapers in 1962 & 1966.

 

Best Regards
Jeremy


 

----- Original Message -----

 

Sent: Friday, May 19, 2006 10:07 AM

Subject: Dear Jerry

 

Dear Jerry,

 

The Gal Oya Scheme was the brainchild of D.S.Senanayake.

 

In 1948 the Gal Oya which is fed by many streams and tributaries was dammed thereby flooding villages like Wadinagala, Baduluwela and other surrounding areas to form the Senanayake Samudra, a lake whose entire extent is about 29,900 hectares.   It also provided access to the new town of Inginiyagala.  The waters so harnessed were utilized to generate hydroelectric power.

 

The inhabitants of these submerged villages and the surrounding areas lived very primitive and arduous lives. Their only mode of transport  was carts and they were served by one apothecary and headman whose knowledge and advice was considered infallible . They were compensated with financial  assistance, some land, a small dwelling (colonists hut), some agricultural tools, kitchen utensils, etc. Their lives changed for the better, socially and economically.  The opening of roads, telecommunication services set up by the Village Expansion Scheme contributed to a more civilized way of life.

 

The Samudra is dotted with small islands which are covered in greenery.  Elephants graze there and probably  swim from island to island.  When we (I) visited  this place large trees were standing in the waters of the lake , but as the roots were so saturated  all  the leaves and small branches  had fallen off. However there was no shortage of many birds of many varieties nesting in them with their eggs  and fledglings. (See my poem)

 

The electricity that was generated had to be carried to the rest of the island  on pylons (towers)  These towers were constructed in the most inaccessible places…..clearing a “right of way “ through the forests.

 

We had great times there in Amparai.  There were socials and dances, sports and championships , wonderful sandy beaches further further

east. the favourite of which was the one at Passecudah. (see my poem) 

 

My other poems speak for themselves.

    

A  MOTHERS SUPPLICATION ….My prayer for my daughters success

 

SONNY BOY …The excitement, anticipation and joy felt by all the family when my son came home from boarding school  for his holidays

 

MOTHER … the Angel heaven sent doyen to us. 

 

BEES…I became interested in bees since  I went to a Bee Exhibition.  I wanted so much to make my family believe that bees do not sting at special times, eg. When they swarm. And I got that opportunity  when they set up their hive in my chimney.

 

FLAMBOYANT… sitting in the park watching these flowers glide down gently on to the green grass inspired

 

THE SONNET...similarly in the same park I saw a dear old lady sitting by herself deep in thought and that got me thinking. 

 

CRYSTAL...is the baby I lost on 1.03.1961, because of the neglect of a Nursing Home. The anaesthetist was busy in the hospital and by the time he arrived at the nursing home to carry out my operation the baby had died.  We should have sued them…instead they sent me the bill which even included the cost of the cotton wool …and We paid it. 

 

Lots of love to one and all

 

ZL