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  • Pramudith D. Rupasinghe

Freetown



Amidst carnivore eyes

Waiting in deadly stillness,

Shining in witchy sunset

Battling to carve the way.

Among debris of decades lived woe,

In brackish, bloody and deadly water

With trembling arms n' empty stomach

Thickened sweat on rashes that stench,

Sick heart with hard battering cough


He is sailing for hope


From banks of illness and misery

Via the waters of bleeding history

To the dumb oceans of mystery

Behind the bleeding sinking Sun

ebony kayak floats aimlessly

to horizons of no-return.


He is plunged in thick obscurity


from banks of illness and misery,

via the waters of bleeding history

to the dumb oceans of mystery,

to banks of illness and misery

via the waters of bleeding history

from the dumb oceans of mystery,

hope sailed a day in history.

a history that travelled to n' fro

from banks of illness and misery,

via the waters of bleeding history

to the dumb oceans of mystery

to banks of illness and misery,

via the waters of bleeding history

from the dumb oceans of mystery.


Pramudith D Rupasinghe is internationally known as a novelist and his previous work includes Behind the Eclipse, Footprints in Obscurity and Bayan. His books have been translated into several languages and available across the world.



Story Behind the Poem

"This poem was written when I was in Freetown, in the conflict-ridden West African nation Sierra Leone, in 2011. I was in one of the hilly cosy hotels in Freetown that where my balcony was overlooking the port of Freetown. The country had just gotten rid of the devastating civil conflict which broke out during the Liberian civil conflict. The neighbouring West African nation was equally beaten by a series of civil conflicts and military coups.

These two nations- Liberia and Sierra Leone have been equally crashed by civil war and wherever you look in Freetown, you would notice buildings destroyed by shelling, walls that hold years-long evidence of machine-gun bursts, and people, mostly young men who were forcefully amputated by the rebels. Rape was used systematically by all armed groups as a weapon of war, and those who went to vote for ECOWAS- the economic community of west African states, supported election were given two options; at the rebel checkpoints they were asked whether they want ‘short sleeves’ or “long sleeves”. Those who responded short sleeves were amputated from their elbows’ and those who said “long sleeves”, from the wrist. That was the rebel response to the famous slogan of the electoral campaign ‘use the hands for voting not for shooting’.

In 2011, the nation was still struggling with a rattling economy, corruption, social issues, and also with a very high number of militarised young and unemployed population with guns in their possession. The disarmament and demilitarisation efforts were underway but there were several challenges.

Among the broken structures, as victims of torture people were trying to fight with their lives every day. When I looked out from the window, I saw a fisherman, was roving his Kayak. The sunset was as red as blood, and the Atlantic ocean was as calm as death. And it reminded me a number of people chopped to death, and the cardinal blood that might have run along the streets on this city, leaving a ‘Bleeding and hostile history’ behind. And, like many others who were trying to make their daily living, trying to forget the loved ones they had lost- children, wives, siblings, mothers and fathers, with some sort of hope that is still far away as the horizon that is never reachable.

And taking Krio population, the majority of Freetown’s elite circle, being freed British slaves they, once in the history sailed to this bank for hope leaving a bleeding history behind. And today, the bank of hope had become a cemetery with bleeding history, as if the history is destined to repeat over and over again, and the life is about sailing for the hope that is beyond the horizon that the eye can't catch.



Photo by Satheesh Kumar