Being Elsewhere and Inside the Silence

Ken Head



Being Elsewhere


Desolation, Desolation

            so hard

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.


Ken Head reads Being Elsewhere



Inside the Silence


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 reads Inside the Silence


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


Photo Courtesy of dreamstime.



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Poems Copyright © 2008 Ken Head. All rights reserved.