Being Elsewhere and Inside the Silence
To come down off of
They mustíve walked all night from their village in the hills
to have arrived in town that early,
although their impassive faces show no weariness. I imagine
making the same journey
down miles of muddy, pitch-black jungle track no wider than
a manís shoulders, loaded pannier
cutting into my back, children having to walk if their mother
feels too tired to carry them,
pushed every anxious step of the way by the need to get there
soon enough to part the wealthy
foreign visitors from a little of their cash, before heading home
the way I came,
with barely any sleep or food to speak of in between.
I wonder what Kerouac and his Desolation Angels, with their
lappylap lapis lazuli afternoons
of peace and butterflies, might have to say. Maybe too much.
Thereís no lily lap of water here,
only a leprosarium further downriver, a monastery crumbling
peacefully to the sound
of wind chimes, the stink of rotting vegetables dumped beside
piles of blood-stained
offal on the garbage heaps below the market for the monsoon
tides to wash away
and this cluster of guarded, silent tribal people keeping apart,
abstracted from whatís going on,
aloof, as if they just might see right through us all.
Italicised lines and phrases from Jack Kerouac, Desolation Angels, Ch. 52 p. 97 & Ch. 56 p. 102. Panther Books, 1975.
After Utagawa Hiroshige: A man crossing a bridge in a snowy landscape.
An old monk, head down, shoulders hunched against thick, wet
snow, hobbles across a rickety wooden bridge.
Chilled to the bone, bad leg giving him gyp,
nose running like a tap, he hasnít spared a thought
for his Buddha nature since the cold shivered
him awake in the small hours.
For the umpteenth time, he sniffs, curses
his luck, wonders what he did years ago to have
ended up where he is now, then tells himself
to forget about it till heís home.
Lifeís easier to fathom, heís decided, after a hot meal
by a good fire than when youíre struggling with it in the cold.
Ken Head lives in Cambridge. His poems appear regularly both online and in print, some of them in recent editions of White Chimney, Thievesí Jargon, Obsessed With Pipework, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Beat The Dust, Ranfurly Review, Urban District Writers, White Leaf Review, The Shine Journal and Static Movement. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.
Photo Courtesy of dreamstime.
Poems Copyright © 2008 Ken Head. All rights reserved.