The pandanus

hunkered by the beach wall daubed
with the Disney B-list
leached by constant sun – its dusky

loopholes carven of necessity –
overachieves like Caliban,
its trunk a shivalingam

propped, not understood by this
freakishly-enlarged birdcage
of roots with no bird

trapped in it – a listening structure
taps Ariel’s vein with feedback
loops outpacing their own shadows

on the sand, those tiger stripes
crab-strafed with bulletholes
glazed over by high tide.

Aerial roots extrude
their twilight slowly – the Colombo skyline’s
emergent dot dot dot of light

picks out floating green coconuts
arivarl-halved and cursed
with grave-ash, prayer-beads, menses.

Each mist-wall the sea throws up
is capons to the pandanus who knows
the air is crammed with glittering données.

by Vidyan Ravinthiran

from at home or nowhere (2008)

“This poem is about visiting Sri Lanka, where my family’s from, though I was born here in Leeds. There’s a kind of tree there called the pandanus which roots itself in tropical areas, or on the beach, and it’s got aerial roots so it can survive by taking its necessary moisture from the air, not the earth. Those ‘aerial roots’ provided me with a way of talking about my background, or lack thereof, in Sri Lanka. It’s also one of my most helplessly academic poems, and I’m not ashamed of that – with its token allusion to Caliban, its bits and bobs of Shakespeare, an embedded phrase of Marvell’s. I’d like to say I didn’t do all this deliberately – I’ve never wanted to write blatantly self-regarding and ‘difficult’ poetry – but it’s really an expression of who I am, of what I felt as I looked at the tree. To pretend to some kind of more stripped-down authenticity would be false. I didn’t want this poem to be a workshop-type thing, streamlined and unembarrassable.”

Vidyan Ravinthiran was born in Leeds and studies in Oxford where he serves as Poetry Editor of the Oxonian Review. His pamphlet at home or nowhere is published by tall-lighthouse in their pilot series, which is under the editorial guidance of Roddy Lumsden.

tall-lighthouse was founded in 2000. It publishes full collections, pamphlets, chapbooks and anthologies of poetry, and organises poetry readings & events in and around London and South East & South West England, as well as facilitating writing workshops in conjunction with Arts, Education, Library & Community Services.