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2 Nature poems by Manan Bhan

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Artwork: The Poet’s Garden, Vincent van Gogh

My first tree

Life in our veranda predates me,

An investigation of the attic brought out memories that

Post-retirement, Daddy had made a mound amongst the concrete once

For one humble curry tree stem

The cat would dig up the soil

Looking for something only he knew

The veranda now dirty, Ammi would come scuttling out

Voicing her displeasure loud and clear in Kashmiri

He persisted, proving her reprimands futile

The tree would attract our neighbours

For the curry leaf embellishes many a dish

Many mornings and afternoons their calls punctuating 

Our eating time, our resting time

Pleasantries exchanged as a mere formality

A branch was taken back for that afternoon’s meal

Six-year old me had an ambition to climb the tree

Balancing myself on one of its branches

To forego the stairs and visit the floors above 

That time the tree was but a healthy stem

Incapable now, but one day I thought

I moved out, moved in, moved out

Ambitions were forgotten for others

But the tree stood there patiently waiting

Until one day

A yearning for more human space meant

A new house, but not the old tree

Finding meaning in rocks

College told me rocks are of three kinds

Sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous

They store their own unique memory of the Earth

I attach some of my own to them

There are the ones from an Icelandic glacier

A landscape so wondrous, it confirms the suspicion that

The Ice Age is still here

I remember many miles of road in early Spring

And mountains bathed in white

The ones from the banks of the Ganges

Smooth and rounded, a reminder of water’s strength

To shape routes and destinies

We would bounce some pebbles on its waters

And see which one went the farthest

The ones from Vesuvius have holes in them

Pressures and temperatures once so high

Anybody would relent after all

We made a picnic up there, much to everyone’s envy

Looking down upon the Bay of Naples

Among the oldest in time these 

Ones from Dharwad contain stories

Rich in detail for someone who can read

I found them when a peculiar sight was

Upon us, a partially-submerged church

All these are now safe in a cupboard at home

When laid out on the floor

Memories flood back, warm and fuzzy

For the inanimate give meaning

When the living lie far far away

Manan is currently doing his PhD in Vienna, where he tries to understand what societies do with land, and what that means for the carbon stored in these landscapes. The human tendency to define landscapes fascinates him, and so he also analyses why and how forests are defined the way they are. He is a big fan of chai and long-distance trains, and if they can be found together, then even better. Find his work here.


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