A Refugee's Urgent Plea - Poem by Gilbert Pangyarihan
A letter written for Hon. Mary Robinson,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
I am Subramaniam Punniyamoorthy,
A name so lengthy with syllables so many;
But that’s the way in my terr’tory,
Where the language is sheer poetry.
So for simplicity and to avoid complexity,
You may just call me Moorthy.
I come from Sri Lanka, obviously,
A country full of exotic beauty
Yet closed by war indef’nitely.
I live specif’cally, that is, formerly,
In the District of Battkalo,
About 250 kilometers north of Colombo.
Actually, as goes my story,
My father and my brother died already
In a war holy, ironically,
Between the Singalese Sri Lankan Army
And the Tamil LTTE.
Mistaken for Tigers
Though they were just farmers,
Both were shot in the temple,
Not inside a Hindu temple but our house,
Where darts many a mouse,
Before our very eyes;
No, I’m not telling lies.
Now, after me is the same Army;
That’s why I ran away from my country.
I left behind my 61-year old mother,
My 17-year old brother
And my 29-year old sister –
Their lot not getting any better.
I’m their only hope for survival,
But I got trapped like an animal;
They rely on me for support,
But I was caught here at the airport,
And put to work in laundry
Alongside garments and carpentry
In a prison-cum-factory –
A multi-million dollar industry.
And I can’t go back to my country;
For sure the Army will arrest me.
But I’m not a Tiger;
I’m just an agricultural worker,
In short, a farmer,
Like my late father and my early brother.
That’s why I’m making this urgent plea
For you to consider me as a refugee.
I’m 34 years old, single and very much able,
And say some
I’m tall, dark and handsome.
Thus, I’m seeking asylum,
With you as my forum,
In France, England, Belgium,
The US, Canada, Norway,
Germany, Italy or no way.
That is, of course, if you may
Allow me to say
Where I want to stay;
After all, I don’t have to pay.
And if it’s not too much to ask of you,
I want Gilbert to come with me too,
For he turned my plight into poetry
(Pardon him for being corny)
And made this letter friendly,
So that, albeit we are in misery,
You can be merry,
For your name is Mary,
The hope of many a refugee.
His is a different story;
He can’t also go back to his country,
For he sent to jail his agent – a she –
Who is the reason why he is in prison.
Now, he is the reason why she is in prison.
He has a death threat
Hanging over his head
And can’t sleep in bed,
Thinking of what lies ahead.
So please consider us seriously,
For we’re in the same quandary.
I’ll show you my father’s death certificate
And also my brother’s in duplicate,
And Gilbert will show his ‘death certificate’
From the syndicate for you to authenticate.
Kindly respond to me immediately,
For Gilbert might be deported shortly.
Should that happen, as the case might be,
I wouldn’t have somebody
To write for me as ably as could he,
Who might then be just a memory.
Lastly, before I flee and set you free,
Please visit us here in the factory,
And you’ll not be sorry but happy to see
Two birds singing Maryly.
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