About ten days ago, to mark Valentine’s Day 2020, Roar called for poetry and prose submissions on the topic ‘Limits to Love’, of which the top contenders, we decided, would be selected by writer and actor Brandon Ingram. 

We were flooded by submissions. In the ten days to the deadline, we got nearly a hundred—mostly poems, and some prose. Sifting through them was not an easy task, and yet we were committed to opening up our platform to the work that made the cut. 

Although we had initially planned to select the top ten submissions, in the interest of maintaining editorial integrity, Ingram has chosen eight that he felt made the most impact. These are reproduced below. 

But first, a word from our curator—

I’m no expert on poetry or any other form of the written word. On most days I’m barely able to string a sentence together, and even when I do I’m certain I’ve got it wrong or that I could’ve said it better. I’m not a writer; I don’t think. I’m just someone who’s obsessed with feeling — the ways in which it is inspired in our being, and the ways in which we express it — the alchemy of it all. 

And so, whilst there was grammar and structure and topic to consider, it was ultimately feeling that guided the entire process of poring through your collective works. It isn’t that those not mentioned here did not make me feel something. It’s more that this selection comprises those who made me feel exactly how they felt.

I applaud the expressions of every single participant — your words matter, your stories matter, your love matters. Like you, I too am guilty of telling love how it ought to behave, and like you, I too have paid the price of such foolishness. So thank you for the brief glimpse into each of your worlds. I appreciate the opportunity and encourage you to keep writing, keep expressing, and keep loving.

In the words of Rumi, ‘you have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.’

Love, Brandon.

 

Addiction has a face

Irony has a sense of humour.
I always find you sitting at my door
when I've had the worst day. Ever.
And like a former addict still harbouring addiction
I take you in.
(For one last spin)
I let you ravage me
savages we are,
and every time we triumph
I feel a little more lost.

I wish I can see you on a good day
When Happiness does not come with a shot of bitter
I can be better.
(have a normal conversation)
and not invite you in.

But no, you are reserved for my dark times
and you wrap, love, comfort
and many times, throw me.
Over the cliff.
but you are loyal.
(Son of a bitch)

I'm leaving. Again.
(you should be the one to go)
but you smile wanly
and I know I’ll leave a breadcrumb trail.
The meal given so I wouldn't starve,
I halve,
to find my way home.

—Soni Fernando

 

the black sheep, the dark horse
the girl without a ring
begging bowl in hand
to ask for love,
to collect sin
‘a rebel’s silhouette’
and doors are barred from within
never to touch the untouchable,
mother warned, she did
when you are the outcast, you are the girl without a ring.

Shah

 

Reminisce

I've seen countless beauties
on exotic shores,
many-scented flowers 
in sublime colours,

tasted rare fruits
from secluded trees,
rose-infused honey
of old-country bees.

I’ve heard ancient songs
by the sacred ones -
chants of gold-robed monks
and prayers of nuns,

touched the peaks of mountains
and the dark deep lakes,
traipsed through palace gardens
sealed in ivy gates.

But somehow it was empty,
just a fairy tale
ship lost at sea
long ago set sail.

If only you had been there 
I’d remember this -
more than all the treasure
and the sweetest bliss,
priceless as a breath of air -
my one true wish
to give it all away
and share
the lovers’ kiss.

Adrian DiMatteo

 

Boursin – the lost advertisement

I love you.

Really.

Truly: je t'adore.

But when I make our lunch,
I still put more cheese in my sandwich than in yours.

A.S.H. Smyth

 

"if I were a lady"

it's stamped on a face
what makes a woman,
a lady
a whiter shade of pale
a soft voice, unraised
        a skirt, a dress, a flower pressed
between a book of poems, now discarded, as an old lover,
felled.
no graffiti on her wall,
no lips of red
the smell of sex, well hidden
for the proof you need of the men in her bed.
as around her —a magnetic field—she threads,
a song that keeps singing on and on in my head
it's your name that it bears
but you'd take the lady instead.

Shah

 

Barrier Reef

I'll get you a boat one day
so you can sail away
and wave to me
until you disappear
on an open sea.

The wind will speak
as water breaks
against the shore.
I'll be worn down too
like these ancient stones
that crumble under you.

I've poured my salt
in tears, stood at the end of my rope
on the edge of this pier
and peered into the misty blue -
my heart
chasing after you...

forgotten to breathe
a sigh of relief -
acidified
as the barrier reef.

It goes beyond belief
to see these beautiful things
die to be complete.

Adrian DiMatteo 

 

Half-Truths

I’ve been taught that books hold the
truth and the books say actions speak
louder than words so I trusted
the erratic thumping of your heart
underneath my hands and 
the way yours lingered against the
smooth skin of my neck but
the books were wrong and now
the only things that shake are my 
shoulders and only thing that’s erratic
is my breathing as I sit here rolling the
words over and over in my mind 
trying to figure out which was half-truth 
and which was a lie.

V 

 

Dead

We made love today
he and I;

and as we lay entwined,
his head upon my left shoulder,
his face upon my right breast,
I cried. 

for deep within me
I knew
his love had died. 

See, we made love today, 
he and I,
yet not once,
did his warm lips
touch mine. 

Vrai Raymond

About the Curator — Brandon Ingram is the author of two novels, Fairy Dance (2007) and Living Their Lie (2009). He is also an actor whose most recent work includes a central role in Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke’s Gratiaen winning play ‘The One Who Loves You So’. He will also soon be seen as Arjun “Arjie” Chelvaratnam in Oscar-nominated Director Deepa Mehta’s next film ‘Funny Boy’, based on Shyam Selvadurai’s literary masterpiece.

About the process — Close to a hundred submissions flooded in—and in fact, kept coming in, even past the deadline. All of the submissions were stripped off their names and other identifiers and shared with Ingram, who, therefore, had no knowledge of who the authors were. This is why, we have two submissions from one author, and another two from another author, in the eight that were finally selected. In essence, only the poems that made the cut, were approved, no matter who the author was. 

While we are very aware that many of those of you who sent in submissions will be disappointed at the fact that you were not selected, we do hope you understand the spirit with which this enterprise was conducted. We also ask—as Ingram did–that you continue to write and work on expressing your feelings in a pure, unadulterated form. 

Thank you all for participating. 

Cover: Roar Media/Jamie Alphonsus