Poetry: Litany For Our Survival by Janiru Liyanage

To survive is to make a dart of your own name, Janiru Liyanage argues. A thing to make the mouth bleed: survival. “unravel the thin parish of my mouth,” begs the Litany for Our Survival, “this whole gospel.”


Litany For Our Survival

The arrow is its own kind of song++++we wait in the
night’s open maw++++tender the dark with our thin hands,

our velvet bodies++++smoke threaded in the loose strands of our hair
we eat mango with our palms, sun-spilt, the piths dangling from our

dark lips++++++and all I have ever wanted was to be the single clot of blood
you dawn and hold++++O’ beautiful Amistad, we broke open like chords

like questions++++we, gilded ourselves with love++we made a
home for this++we pull names out of our mouths like tiny darts, we

gloss the tips with saliva++++we hold them up and there: a silhouette,
a glow, moving++++we throw, we feast++++++we live one more day

we take its heat, then vanish++++last night, I dreamt of all of us,
by the ocean++++the water spitting back up Ayusha, and Kavindu,

and Padmissiri    reader, dance with me in this moment,
just for a while++++++++unravel the thin parish of my mouth++this whole gospel

of culling++++put your ear to that wound++++hear the dogs who could
bay and betray me at any time++++I mean to say I miss them++++I mean

to say that the Wikipedia page for List of people killed by Sri Lankan
government forces says it is: incomplete and I can help by expanding it

I know what it means++++I know that by writing this, I just might++++sometimes,
we disappear into all smoke and warmth and no one will grieve++++sometimes

we anthem in the wrong direction or sing to the wind++++++++keep the music
soft and lilting in our lungs++++and the Sinhala comes back to me in gauzy

swabs of oil and paint++++noun and verb forms winged to my blooming throat
sometimes we become a hyperbole of birds, rising++++++++sometimes I will go

to a city and look up, “brown boy killed in” and learn his name++++keep it in my
mouth++++use it as something warmer than God for the nights when it’s just me

cutting tamarinds in the dulling half-light and sometimes, I go trekking and see a
deer knelt crookedly and lapping water from a ditch and I am grateful this time,

it is just an animal




Janiru Liyanage

Janiru Liyanage is a 15-year-old school student and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. His recent work appears or is forthcoming in [PANK], Wildness Journal, Cordite Poetry Review, Homology Lit, Up The Staircase Quarterly, Boston Accent Lit, The Journal Of Compressed Creative Arts, Ekphrastic Review, Driftwood Press and elsewhere. He is a 2019 winner of the national Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards, a recipient of an Ekphrastic Award from the Ekphrastic Review and Sydney finalist of the Australian Poetry Slam. He has appeared on The Project and featured in the Namoi Valley Independent, The Minister's Media Centre, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of a UNICAF scholarship for a degree at the University of California Riverside, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Suffolk, University of East London, and Unicaf University. Born as the son of Sinhalese immigrants, he currently lives in Sydney.

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