From the tree I've climbed only once
Years ago, at the height of childhood innocence
I scraped and bruised my way to the top
Monsoon soaking my skin
To survey this timeworn town
Of rusty tin huts and clay
I listened to the storm-created symphony on the roof
Nature's old-fashioned xylophone
And as the storm grew heavy,
The roof began to dent-
I wondered if it would live to see winter.
Now, standing under the tree,
I clasp the mango like a prayer
Feeling its weight in my palm
A wait of 20,000 years
I think of the marigolds
My cousin would plait in my hair
As my mother served khichuri on
Freshly plucked banana leaves
We weren't allowed to touch until everyone sat down.
The mango is yellow,
bordering on brown
It's warm in my hands and if I
Hold it to my ears I can almost
Hear a heartbeat that sounds like
The pounding of brick and clay I hear in the
Distance as tin is torn down, demolition
replacing the homes that existed here
Long before Bangladesh did.
My sandals scuff on a pile of
Night-blooming jasmine blown away
From the tree next to the lake where
I once caught a fish: it caressed my legs
while showering and I leaned down to grab hold
thinking it was entangled seaweed
Now I kneel to grab a handful of flowers
That overflow from my hands except for one.
My mother gently strokes the walls of
the worn-down temple where once, we worshipped
And celebrated and sang but now cobwebs
Weave through the doorway and
when she turns to ask if I'm ready to go
I want to tell her, no, 10 minutes isn't enough to
Take in the 20,000 years my ancestors have
Lived here and learn to shoulder that burden
In a foreign land but I say yes.
As we drive by paddy fields and fallen trees
I carefully peel the skin and bite into the mango
And feel the nectar, sweet on my tongue.
Born and raised in Dhaka, Tapti is currently a senior at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, USA. She has been writing poetry for 10 years and has had her work recognized by the American Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.