blackmail press 33
Desh Balasubramaniam
Sri Lanka/ New Zealand

Tui Taonga 1-5 Penny Howard
Desh Balasubramaniam is a young poet. He was born in Sri Lanka and raised in both the war-torn Northern & Eastern provinces. At the age of thirteen, he fled to New Zealand with his family on humanitarian asylum. During and upon conclusion of his University education, he spent considerable lengths of time travelling on shoestring budgets through number of countries often travelling by hitchhiking and working various jobs. His continuous journeys have further evoked his passion in expressive art and embarked him on the endless quest in search of identity. He is the founding director of Ondru – a movement of arts & literature ( His poetical work has appeared in Overland, Going Down Swinging, the Lumière Reader, Mascara Literary Review, Blackmail Press, Trout, QLRS, the Typewriter, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and various other publications. He is currently working on his first poetry collection.    
Letter to mother II

for amma

Let me place a few words
written on unlined pages of your aging feet
Your coarse heels that have walked through days of bare feet
and many more soaked in monsoon mud
I speak to you often about the world
and rarely of myself

Lately your son, he hides his face
in palms of his hands; in open spines of thick books,
wears masks
and subsist beneath unwashed sheets
Parted with the profession of shaving,
stabbed the professional patterns
For something he willingly drowns

When crossing the circles of latitude,
he would always hear your reciting voice
Told to you by the fortuneteller of split lip;
and a rheumatic stutter. At barely nine:
‘he would always be away…gone…from everywhere’
Well this time he is much closer
than you have ever known

Silence often bleeds alone
touches one’s heart, then betrays
in search of its lost face ‘…gone…from everywhere’
Pages on your calendar have aged
And he has returned
with a big bag of nothings, and a feather duster
Begun to know your son,
he now dreams wide awake,
collects dead flowers within novels
How much did you really scream at labour? He would ask.
With him at your feet, and those unwritten letters

You have your village worries
—will he marry?
Love he once grew
on the fence of wild lilies
has died—he collects these along with
hearts of magazines, cut out without titles or dates
Like a memory that lies,
vanished into depth of Helsinki winters
The Sunday morning breath,
stained of whisky and wine,
blowing out the consumed mist
Marked the right arm like cattle,
settled into his mind, a common ditch

His only good trait—what you gave
when you swayed him in the cotton sari
That late evening Batticoloa breeze
His room walls now sway with butcher’s
paper and scriptures of arrows in all six directions
His failures are one too many,
he always breaks something in stranger’s kitchens
Doesn't cast a shadow or drink
enough water.
When his father was taken away,
you taught him; fearless and how to cry without tears
He is not contagious,
just abstract; and undistilled 
As an immigrant boy
at thirteen, asked father to teach him English.
Father threw him a dictionary, stared at New Zealand through the closed window
With the word ‘impossible’ crossed out.

Within the imprisonment of his thoughts, the room walls,
he writes this. Accompanied by two missing pillows
Refuses to confess,
he did kill once
Bathed in its burnt ashes, hid the corpse
deep within his chest, where grass
refuses to grow. He cannot speak of this again,
nor the walk back from the morgue,
hand in hand
Even though he crawled in a country of war,
he fears the eyes of sweet-breasted women

Hanging on to a piece of paper that tries to flee in the wind,
along with the wall,
the stuttering pen—steeped in ink
Give me your old embrace
I am not that far away. And you know,
‘I would always be away…gone…from everywhere’
I have now written one of those unwritten letters
dressed in melodies of your morning songs
(while you still remain in labour)
In glimpses of the rusting me, I see you
While I lay in depth of my world—arrows in all six directions
I am thinking,
of all those things you once taught
The story of the lion and a mouse

your recurring ache

Letter to the voiceless nation

My beloved, I wait at your unspoken door
absent and astray
Longing for your displaced embrace,
your son.
Your indulgence in apathy has forced him to orphanhood
First born—my older brother rests in your marbled villa,
melodies of mother.
Your indifference still startles your victim
Shouldn’t your sons be like or alike
in eminence and in premonition
below the curtains of the sacred fig?
Do you not see your blood
make passage beneath my darkened skin?
Your lullabies once eased the heat of June,
the tender sleeps.
Crystal was your conception,
you would love and hate—all at once
How long will your conscience fail you?
I wish not for your throne or the pearls,
nor your riches of the nine stones.
Will you not answer the faceless door?
Hold your child,
at least once,
before you hang him in your gallows?
In my last breath, I breathe,
you and I