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Baobab trunk of a metaphorical tree -- poetry by Xiao Gan

Sitting in the hawker center and talking German in our own tongue: ‘mein’ and ‘mian’
were the strangest pair of twins. We would then fly out the back door, chirping
about majestic Eiffel Towers and English high tea and Spanish ballroom waltzes
all the while our cotton skirts brushing against ancient, eroded gravestones
and golden platters of offerings on ancestral altars.

The daffodils gasped and suffocated on my tongue. The babel fish in my ear
has long abandoned me in aching searches of desolate heritage trees, their baobab trunks
swaying
in mislaid languages and unreturned tickets, third class steerage and trading ports

If I had not gone on your magic carpet would I be home right now
in hazy incense and the clanging of lion dances, lantern festivals and rice dumplings?
Would I be able to taste your words and their loving ciphers, their prayers and their sweating
backs?
Would I be home and not in the middle of uncharted seas, sailing to a metaphorical tree?

The silver tongue passed down from my mother is rusting, forgetting how to untangle old
languages
My grandmother’s words land in a clump of smothering lotus roots, its taste of mandarin
oranges and prayer sticks
fading with every word uttered in the noise of strangers, this cacophony of dreamers and
immigrants
The baobab trees will sprout again from the wavering footprints taken in a land
that carried us long ago on its spices and silks and ceramics.

Xiao Gan is a student writer. Her work has won gold for the Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition before. She lives in Singapore, and hopes to enter a math-related field of study in the future.
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