To Absence, In the Garden

My grief is a walled garden.
Where memory is a nook
I settle into;
Perusing a book of silent birds
That was once yours.

There is spare comfort
In the space
Where someone used to be.
I trace the creases your fingers left,
To find your favourites.

No more yellow-browed bulbuls
Or hoopoes in these parts.
There is a chembuka
Who thinks he is invisible.
You would be glad to know, at least,
The dusky crag-martins remain.
Though the sparrows are gone.

Scent maps your fading presence—
Orange-blossom, yala and black pepper.
Their lingering perfume
Seeps into silence
On your book’s pages; yours, after all.

I would ask you—
What is the grammar of this landscape?
Sing the elements to me; they are fleeting.
I cannot recall the name
Of western wind through bamboo groves.

I ask them to stop playing tricks.
For when I hear your footsteps
Light upon the floor;
It’s only fallen leaves’
Rustling past the door.

Somaiah Kambiranda is a gardener.

Featured image: Timo Müller/Unsplash