Vajrakantakasalmali by Vajra Chandrasekera

Vajra Chandrasekera is from Colombo, Sri Lanka. His poetry has appeared in inkscrawl, Liminality, and West Branch, among others. Find him on Twitter as @_vajra.

When the water rises to the knee
to the thigh
when my calves are strong from wading
my antlers grown in at long last
bone branching like lightning
seeking older earth
a narrower future
I'll slosh into your dreams, hooves wet and unseen, to prophesy.
Listen—I am science fiction
to my grandparents going hungry in empire's famine.
I am their dream of foretelling,
which they might have confused for nightmare.
In the deep future, we are stilt-legged and hooved;
in the future deep, we are waders in the slow and sacred grove
of the concrete forest, shattered and marked by tides,
measuring our little drownings in their season.
We sleep with our faces up, ears underwater,
listening to echoes of lost whalesong.
In our dreams we are portents
   sent back in time to save us
to our bewildered grandparents
who might think we’re symbols of something else.
My red eyes, which they almost recognize,
and my long red tongue like a flag with a lion,
a sun and a moon.
The swords, one broken, in my hands,
thunder in my other hands,
screens in my other hands trembling
at raindrops, as if asking
—is that a touch
am I being touched
heads in my other hands,
your hands in my other, other hands.
They understood themselves to be haunted
but not the name of the hell we come from:
vajrakantakasalmali, the tree of unbreakable thorns.
We are the thorns: we prick you,
but loving us, you never pluck us out.