In New Jersey

Dilantha Gunawardana


In New Jersey, there are only the residue,

Of heaven on earth, the mythical Atlantis.

Here, Camden becomes the haven

For young black men, who want to bankroll an education

And not contraband. Still there are ruts, that some young

Men from Rutgers go through, to get a job, that pays the rent,

The Friday night beers, and a savings account that grows

Bigger by tens, and perhaps hundreds. While New Jersey, the state,

Will always be a tad jealous of Nevada, the bigger casinos that are found,

In the middle of that scorching dessert. Still people dream

Of windfalls coming down a slot machine,

The minted that makes a clanging noise,

Spilling down a vacant slot.


While in Piscataway, they

Have pizza parlors, that sell, all the toppings,

In the world, meat lovers to vegetarian, as a young black

Man walks, a GQ magazine tucked inside his Rutgers jacket,

To meet his girlfriend, at the local Pizzeria.

Only for a cop to stop him on the street,

In a moment of blitzing panic. A young black man in flight

And fright, a cop too eager to pull the trigger, while

Looking down from above is almighty God,

Who, although living in whispered prayers,

Next to casino slot machines,

Sublimes a young man down a lonely street,

Another gambit in a matter of seconds.


How prayer doesn’t guarantee

That God gets the arithmetic of your lifespan right.

How God sometimes swindles you of time,

Just like a cancer ward, where leukemia patients rest.

At least here, you’re given an advanced notice.

How young black men fall, from

A bullet in the back, with no shot at growing old.

A bleak land where short change is an ultimatum,

And dirty money, is the worth of lost chips,

Which calculates to lost years of life,

In a game of street craps.


What is no different, to what is played

On casino tables, in Atlantic City. How they roll the dice,

When twelve, means cornrows, just like the

Braided locks of a young man, who paid the ultimate price

For a trigger-happy law enforcing officer,

Dirty Harry cops, gunning down, unarmed black youths,

Who go to ground, like dice thrown,

In a game of street craps, hitting the ground hard,

While on either side of a face, are two jet-black irises,

Still faintly aglow, on milky white screens,

Like two pips in snake eyes.



Dr. Dilantha Gunawardana graduated from the University of Melbourne, as a molecular biologist, and moonlights as a poet. His poems have been accepted for publication/published in HeartWood Literary Magazine, Canary Literary Magazine, Forage, Kitaab, Eastlit, American Journal of Poetry, Zingara Poetry Review, and Ravens Perch, among others. Dilantha lives in a chimeric universe of science and poetry and is a dual citizen of Sri Lanka and Australia, sharing his experiences from two different cultures. Dilantha has two anthologies of poetry, Kite Dreams (2016) and Driftwood (2017), both brought to the readership by Sarasavi Publishers, and is working on his third poetry collection (The Many Constellations of Home). Dilantha blogs at https://meandererworld. and can be reached at