Desh Balasubramaniam

Desh Balasubramaniam is a young poet. He was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in both the war torn North & Eastern provinces. He fled to New Zealand at the age of thirteen with his family on humanitarian asylum. He is a qualified barrister & solicitor of High Court of New Zealand. He has spent number of years travelling on shoestring budgets around the world with the strong desire to understand the world and his place in it. His first return to Sri Lanka in 2005 had further enhanced his passion in writing and various forms of art. He describes his writing as “a voice for the unheard”. His work has appeared in Blue Giraffe and Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) Online. He is currently working on his first poetry collection.  



Woods behind the yard
              a month-old calf cries into deep night
Dogs in wolves’ mask
yowl in cemeteries of the streets
Voices, voices––that scream
              fade as another gun fires
Nail the windows, slam dark the doors
Hide within the cracks
              next to centipede stings
Last night’s blood in the throat
taste of cold feet to the heels
A game of hide (without seek)
              as death nears the bend
Neighbour’s misery (a school teacher)
baton across his learned temple
              the rusting knee caps
His wife’s sari on the floor
––scream of silence amble
Shadows beneath the door-split
            hunting dogs––their prey
Will you fight for freedom?
Will you rather pray for life?
              (a lifeless life)
They came and they came
              to our homes lit by kerosene lamps
dressed in green, a metal face
              to liberate us (they said)
Armed with a paint brush that fired
the island’s expressionists they screamed
Painted our homes with bullets, and
a trail of blood they walked


Waiting for Freedom

Down a blurred alley off Serangoon Road
in view of Perumal temple
five-headed bells ring
             waking the sleepless sleep
Familiarity within unfamiliar corners
             strangers begin to lose their shadows

Courtesy of a spaceless room––windowless
shoulder to shoulder, the six of us
Staring at the dim of ceiling
waiting for words
             madam from the mansion

Through the racket
            rough lovemaking from the neighbouring room
father confirms: “freedom awaits in a new land
our futures”
             ––away from the death knot of civil war
common obituaries
the unforgiving sharpness of a knife
She screamed finale––a long aaahh!
              a moment of freedom felt by all

Dressed with a thin noose
the interview at High Commission
Raised to answer every question
in little known language of English
Yes madam, even though it ought to be no at times
she smiled at my village-school politeness

Father forced to turn home
five unguarded left on our own
              ––the bells kept their heightened blare
Months passed, so did my case of puberty
Sympathetic strings of sitar
our story in a melodious eulogy
Unable to meet the rent
sought asylum from the unknown
Perumal stood his solitary stance
unheard our pleas

Living on milo bungkus
and daily dollar of curry puffs
Counting the number of passing cars
drunken men who sing their misery on Indian streets
wiping the tears of mother
(I had grown––
faster than the roaming clocks)

Month after month
under the lowering opaque ceiling
we waited––shoulder to shoulder
for a letter of freedom

Month after month
under the lowering opaque ceiling
we waited––shoulder to shoulder
for a letter of freedom.


On My Way To Asylum

script of my memoirs, I find
on unlined pages
rear of a novel I read years ago
written with blood of my own
photographs in black & white and burnt edges
smell of ash
            brittle memory of a life buried beneath
an affair with question
never leaves the bed
mind hangs on a barbwire fence
commas turned to colons
            showing clear breaks
story with a struggle for breath
born on a tear of Indian ocean
without a nation for some years
covering the scars with a silent pair of eyes
crawling on bare knees, with
broken body of words and a weightless bag
I arrive here in the cold
            with and without will
searching a new beginning
my drawn hand to greet the horizon