Photograph by Pranith Wirasinha

Are we free in 2023?

To declare love and
friendship without
fear, without visits

from police or
blackmail from
nosy neighbors?

Are we free in 2023?

To deny low wages
or flagrant riches,
or laws that restrict

movements while
we walk on streets
hoisting placards

without confronting
police wielding lathis
and water cannon,

without trespassing
in high security zones,
and seeing loved ones

arrested under
the Prevention of
Terrorism Act?

Are we free in 2023?

To stroll on Galle Face Green
wearing Aragalaya
stamped on our tee shirts?

Are we free in 2023?

To demand the return
of lands taken by
the state in Mullaitivu,

throughout Jaffna
Peninsula, on
the East Coast?

Are we free in 2023?

To enact the 13th
Amendment, to get
local political power

to local politicians
and the people—who?–
yes, we who they represent?

Are we free in 2023?

To review disciplinary
rules for our national
cricket team,

for parliamentarians
and executives alike
who pretend to serve

as models for our youth?
On this 75th anniversary
of our independence

what can we say
about the unanswered
questions as well

as the ones
we answered right?
Let us celebrate heroes

who won the island back
from the colonial master,
and let us reflect on how

they and their successors
squandered the prize,
and how now we can

walk on the long path
towards freedom wearing
nothing on our bodies

but these words
in three national

I will be free in 2023.