By | 1 February 2022

Under clammy loam past the roots
of Bodhi trees, in a place the ancestors
named Colombo
lie the bones from which
we came, you and I. Think of the mariner gone
two centuries, stowed in the damp of someone else’s
gouged earth, landlocked for eternity,
the owners of the place where he disembarked
hurling dirt
on the change he’d brought, gathered like dark pillars
on the fringe
of a Christian burial for a tragic Billy Budd,
our great, great, great, etcetera, all bravado
and natural curiosity, a genealogist’s conundrum;
his legend mocks documentation, his archaic sextant
condemned to a musty life in the sea-bitten tea chest
that adorns your mantlepiece, a salt-damaged relic of
expired wanderlust. Think of his marrow, small red specks
dotting the verdant fringe of Negombo, the nucleotides
that grew our generations. Imagine our long-expired grandmothers
who landed swan-necked, vulnerable as seabirds on the docks,
to marry, to cobble nests among the jam fruit trees, to dodge
cobras; the scrape of coral reef on merchant hulls, their rite
of passage. Unmoored now, we roll like egret eggs,
you and I, in different directions,
far from the sea;
the art of navigation sunk within, dormant, unfathomable,
the distance between us, vast.

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