Home Literature Looking For A Cousin On A Swing by AK Ramanujan Summary

Looking For A Cousin On A Swing by AK Ramanujan Summary

by Litinbox

Written by AK Ramanujan, the poem ‘Looking for a Cousin on a Swing’ is about the poet and her cousin -her immature sexual encounter with her cousin when she was a child- and how it remains the same even now when they are grown up.

‘Looking for a Cousin on a Swing’ is written in free verse that doesn’t fit to a particular rhyme scheme. This haunting and poignant verse was published in AK Ramanujan’s popular collection called ‘The Striders‘ in 1966. As usual, Ramanujan uses his two popular poetic techniques i.e, free verse and enjambment.

Looking For A Cousin On A Swing by AK Ramanujan

When she was four or five

she sat on a village swing

and her cousin, six or seven,

sat himself against her;

with every lunge of the swing

she felt him

in the lunging pits

of her feeling;

and afterwards

we climbed a tree, she said,


not very tall, but full of leaves

like those of a fig tree,


and we were very innocent

about it.


Now she looks for the swing

in cities with fifteen suburbs

and tries to be innocent

about it


not only on the crotch of a tree

that looked as if it would burst

under every leaf

into a brood of scarlet figs


if someone suddenly sneezed.

Looking For A Cousin On A Swing Summary

‘Looking for a Cousin on a Swing’ describes the speaker’s first romantic excitement, the moment of blossoming, and her experience of climbing tree during childhood. As a child, when she was approximately four or five years, she frequently went to and swing on a village swing while her slightly elder cousin swinging against her.

This immature sexual encounter and the reflection of in the speaker’s later part of life sets the theme of the poem. Let’s see line by line:

Lines 1-14

The speaker and her cousin used to swing and play on the village swing when they were children. At that time the speaker was around four or five years old approximately and her cousin around seven years. They used to swing against each other and during which they touched each other. She experienced a sexual arousal at every touch. This was the first romantic feelings in her life. She was excited to experience the feeling often.

With each touch or the physical contact with her cousin during the swinging, she could feel the sexual awakening. The Lunge, the poet mentions here, is not the literal lunge, but the sexual arousal. After swinging, they also climbed a small tree full of leaves, a tree similar to a fig tree. The poet says that they were very innocent about what they were doing.

The mention of fig tree and leaves has some Biblical significance where Adam and Eve used to wear fig tree leaves when they felt ashamed of their nakedness for the first time. So, here the poet symbolically means their transformation from innocence to maturity.

Lines 15-23

Now in the present the speaker, living somewhere in a city probably with her husband, longs for the same swing she had in her childhood. It is a longing for the same physical touch she had with her cousin in childhood.

Although she is aware that the childhood innocence would never come back as she is now a matured woman probably running a household, she longs for the same innocent physical encounter she had once.

It can be interpreted that after she has lived a boring life of adulthood in large cities with many suburbs, she wants to go back to the happy childhood and live a life of innocence. She seeks for the same kind of feelings which she once had in the swing.

The last 6 lines are interesting. The speaker as an adult longs for the childlike wonder or she wants to recapture the childhood innocence. This effort is compared to looking for a special place in a fig tree laden with juicy ripe fruits.

The figs are overripe that even a sneeze or any such slight movement can make the figs burst open, spilling out their contents. This is an imagery that the poet employs to describe how weak is the hope to recapture the innocence of childhood in the world of an adult as it can be easily shaken by even small issues.

Poetic Devices


‘Looking for a Cousin on a Swing’ uses several imagery that make this small poem look better. Imagery is a visual descriptive language that create a mental image.

Examples for imagery include: “lunging pits”, “tree… full of leaves like those of a fig tree”, “burst under every leaf into a brood of scarlet figs” etc.


Simile is a figure of speech that compares one thing with another of a different kind. In this poem, the poet uses a simile that helps to create a relatable image in the mind of the readers: “full of leaves like those of a fig tree”.


The word “innocent” is repeated in lines “and we were very innocent about it.”/ “and tries to be innocent about it” to emphasise the purity of the speaker’s thought and her attempts to recapture those feelings of innocence when she is now grown up a woman.


AK Ramanujan always utilises enjambment in his poetry frequently. Enjambment is a device where lines flow into next without terminal punctuation. In ‘Looking for a Cousin on a Swing’, this device perfectly matches as it is comparable to the continuous movement of the swing.