Bare Hands

Amiththan Sebarajah
(for my uncles, for the the people of batticaloa; for their resiliency)

Years ago
We used to trap sprightly little fish
With our bare hands
By the river front

Always with bare hands
Fearing only the catfish stinger
The occasional mudcrab pincher

Amma said one day
‘Be wary of those bare hands
Dead things float by’
And watch out, too, for bare hands
Breaking through the ground, bound and broken

I imagined for a while that I saw them everywhere
Not quite sure whether we never did see them neither

Gesturing to the passerby, to the breakdawn fishermen:
Help, for we died for truth, our dissonance too costly
‘Keep your mouth lest you hang by the lamppost, we will pull out that tongue, nails too’
There were no witnesses, not really.

An 8 year old thought he saw a silhouette,
Swaying in the absent-wind, oozing sticky effluvium.

But in those days, there were too many clamouring hands
I never could tell really which came for me, came at me
Old folks say, don’t bite hands that feed
But what of feeding hands? In a frenzy?

Years later the waters came
Sea changed land, bones seachanged I saw, changed.
Bound but reproachful


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