Chopsticks & Counting Serendipity

by Dilantha Gunawardana


Like a man on stilts
My ungainly fingers
Climb on to two straight rods
Long and slender, like bamboo poles
– Which to the non-Asian
Is a dilemma between plastic or wood – 
As I scoop through my Pad Thai
The peanut powder and the drooping noodle
My second-string ambrosia
After all I cannot afford a dish
Of Duck with Hoisin sauce
As I stick my stilts on a porcelain plate
And work my way to a circus
Or a parade, rising noodle after noodle
Down my black-hole throat…….
I’m fascinated at the little Chinese boy – next to me
Who has perfected the art
Of fingers walking on stilts
And I, the Sri Lankan man
In Singapore, is just a plain old clown
Searching for a tryst with the orient
Laboring my way through the reckless noodle
Scooping strands of starch
And finally surrendering – with shame
As I look around, in fallen chin
At the watchers-by

As I think to myself
– The piano waltz would have been easier!

Counting Serendipity (Post-war Sri Lanka)

Nearly 44 million eye-lanterns
Sharing 46 chromosomes
Walking past 100 different labels and signposts
Of brand names and street graffiti
22 million people sharing a 2500 year history
Playing the numbers game of fate’s odds
Where in 65610 square miles
There is enough room for four ethnicities
Tribesmen, native puritans and purana folk
Even the drifters and the displaced
With no heritage to call home

In this hodge-podge
Of haves and have-nots of identity
There is one hospitable place
An asylum where replicas of 206 bones
In the asymmetry of two
Collide in smile, in pidgin and in palm
Where you will find the maiden of peace
Splitting open her two thighs
To greet the pollen of father time
As they collude to impregnate
A child of 22 million – a little girl called freedom
Who can unite every armchair citizen.

And in that boundless cosmos
Rest 1001 beautiful Serendib nights
As uncountable Adams and Eves defoliate their fig leaves
And jump on a million filaments of coir
Halving numbers while adding and multiplying love
Till a sudden drop from heaven
De-electrifies two soul mates
To the giddy aftermath of 70 burnt calories
Lighting constellations on irises
As the edges of lips part three inches, from ear to ear
Soaking up the afterglow
Of matter uniting across medium.


Editor’s Note on Chopsticks & Counting Serendipity:

Counting Serendipity is not Dilantha Gunawardana’s first work to appear in Eastlit. His previous published pieces are:

  • Calais appeared in Eastlit March 2016.
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