I'm thrilled to present Soni Somarajan's poems on fruit trees, with detailed botanical illustrations by Alisha Dutt Islam created in response to these poems:
One the Liberal and other the Conservative—
trees my sister and I thought were twins.
Their fruits different, the first mashy,
easing down the throat, chewing unnecessary;
the second firm, fleshy, last bastion of taste.
Both the same, even the body language—
a knife, oil-laced, slices them clean,
waking yellow bulbs banished to sleep.
To that question of what’s best for us,
we remain at loggerheads, ever since we
feasted on them the first time.
The smallest fruit from the northern tree.
The low branches, now even lower with fruit.
Grandmother says: Wait. Let light infuse the
flesh. Let it work its love.
Waiting is nature’s language.
Wait till the fruits dream in yellow.
Feverish, they clamour for the warmth of gunny sacks.
There they remain, the rawness slipping away.
Once ripe, make a little slit. The light finds release,
smothered soon by a mouth.
If this is not love, what is?
For its smoothest skin, the guava tree
by the well could have been mistaken for
a woman under a spell.
To think not of that afternoon is to forget
my first stirrings—
that soft step into an alternate world:
where one’s climb is full of words
to higher branches, a shimmer of light.
To a chorus of crows, I climb,
dreamlike, into a cobweb of light.
That daze on high—an unearthing of wings,
ripening of fruit, flight beyond reason.
It's taken me years to speak of it:
the radio silence a compelling primer
of how a child turns into a man.
Sometimes, I have trouble remembering
if it was hubris or the great heights.
For the wild jack to stand out amongst a sea
of coconut palms, like a kite of
bark and leaves swaying in the salty wind.
Teetering, a TV antenna perched on high,
wishing it had wings, its annoyance
often phrased as static on a screen below.
The ancient sigh of the trunk could
have been a star map, possibly an afterword of
high conversations in the sky.
The thing with imaginary treespeak is:
when you are young, everything conspires
not to be unkind, to the child
yearning for a barb-wired,
Follow Soni's beautiful writing here + follow Alisha Dutt Islam's stunning illustrations here.