‘Kite’ by Daya Dissanayake is a twenty-two line poem which is contained within one stanza. The poet has chosen not to utilize a rhyme scheme within this work. She has opted instead to unify the poem through the length of the lines and the choice not to capitalize any of the letters.
Additionally, one might take note of the fact that there is no punctuation in this poem. The lines are written in a style which is almost like that of a stream of consciousness narrative. There are no breaks in the speaker’s thoughts. Every line and phrase comes out without hesitation or debate. You can read the full poem here.
Summary of ‘Kite’
‘Kite’ by Daya Dissanayake describes a child’s attempt to enjoy his own childhood amongst the polluted air and piles of refuse in his town.
The poem begins with the speaker describing what seems to be a beautiful sight. There is a kite floating through the air above fruit trees and a “golden green” field of rice.
In the next section the speaker turns to the child who is holding the kite. He is only wearing a “ragged” pair of shorts and is running to keep up with his toy. One’s initial mental image of what this scene is will be taken apart in the next lines when it turns out the kite is a plastic bag and the sky is really filled with smoke from surrounding factories. The child is running through streets filled with garbage, unable to travel down the full drains.
Analysis of ‘Kite’
In the first stanza of this piece the speaker begins by describing the setting in which the poem is going to take place. The poet has put a great amount of emphasis on making poignant word choices. These decisions have helped to craft a vivid and realistic image of her scenes. In the first line the speaker states that something, which one will immediately assume is the kite due to the title of the poem, is…
against the deep blue sky
One is cane imagine the sight of the kite, whatever color it may be, contrasting against the bold blue of a clear day. The next line describes the kite in clear and simple language. It is “multi-coloured.” With this, the reader’s image of the kite is complete. One can now pictured a rainbow, or at least a many coloured, kite floating through the air.
It is important to note at this point that there has been no mention of someone flying the kite in this situation. A reader might wonder if it has been released by its owner.
The next lines describe the path of the kite as it travels…
Over the top of the green trees
Heavy with fruit
The choice to include the type of trees, no matter how vaguely described, provides the reader with an additional point of interest in regard to the setting. This scene is taking place somewhere where there are fruit trees. It must be within a tropical climate or in an area which has been modified to grow fruit. Not only are the trees growing fruit, they are “heavy with” it. The plants are doing exceptionally well. This is a very fertile area.
The next lines back up that assumption with the speaker stating that the kite is also traveling over the “golden green waves” of a rice field. This field is said to be “ripening.” It is almost ready for harvest, just as the trees are ready to have their fruit picked.
All of these elements of the landscape sit below the kite. There is another character in the scene though, as will be introduced in the next set of lines.
In this section the speaker begins by cleaning up what has happened to the owner of the kite. It is understood that he is still there. The kite is not being overly controlled but this person. It is instead left to float almost freely around the sky.
The owner of the kite, “at the other end of the thread” is a “little boy.” His physical description is composed of a few simple words which paint a clear pictures. He is not a rich child, as is made clear in the next line.
He is wearing “ragged shorts.” Considering the fact that these are the only two words used to describe his clothing, one might assume this is all he is wearing. One’s empathy and curiosity might be triggered by the description. Where is this child from? And where is his family?
The next lines bring the reader back to the kite They also break the previously constructed allusion completely. All is not as it seemed in the first few lines. The kite is not as one might have imagined. It is made out of a “polythene” or plastic, “bag” which has been…
Tied to a piece of tape
From a discarded video cassette
This child has clearly crafted this toy from things he has been able to find. He and his family are not able to afford, find, or spend the time on buying or crafting what one might initial perceive to be a proper kite.
He is running along after his invention, trying to keep up as it moves over the trees and fields.
In the final section the poem the entire picture is transformed. This is not the scene which a reader was led to believe when the speaker spoke of fruit trees and “golden green” fields of rice.
The air through which the kite is traveling is filled with “black acrid smoke.” This is coming from the “factories” which surround the child’s area of play. He is not in a park, in his backyard, or in a beautiful forested area. The child is in a dirty, probably densely populated area which is playing host to sickening and poisonous industrial practices.
These factories don’t just produce garbage, they are also responsible for the massive amounts of garbage which cover the streets. The trash problem is completely out of control in this city, neighbourhood, or town. The refuse is running down the roads and settling in “blocked drains.”
This last section of lines brings up images of confinement. The garbage is not escaping from the roads, the air is filled to capacity with smoke, and the child, who is attempting to participate in his childhood, will most likely not be leaving this place anytime soon.