COUSINS

 

It has a colossal trunk,

dry-wrinkled and crusty baked;

so old, the cracks are aged

with the royal pelt

of moss and lichen.

 

My elephantine tree

swings wild in the wind

and I am blown

into the Motherland

on the back of a

blue-billed bird

that rides on the tusk

of this wise mammal’s head.

 

My skin still feels England;

a wetsuit, shy and clinging

but it won’t save me from the heat

under the cotton trees or the

coconut that might split my skull.

 

It is a thin layer of rubber

that separates you from me.

 

Me trapped on the inside,

you repelled on the outside,

 

a dark impermeable membrane

that stretches for miles

but could easily rip raw

 

when we smell the jasmine in the Malabar breeze,

see the baby elephant queuing in the traffic,

hear the ring of the temple bell by the sea,

feel the first drop of monsoon after the relentless fire,

and devour the mangos

we both call home.

© Sujatha Menon 2021