Poetry

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Tall Thin Men

I found my dreams in the black book, pressed between the pages where I had put them.  They have must lain there carelessly forgotten, moved by a hand other than mine, while I wandered elsewhere, distracted. It was coincidence or change or perhaps deliberate manipulation that led me to touch them again.

When I flicked the page I heard the whistle of the freight train still passing through as it had before, beckoning me on board to take my place alongside the other fugitives who travelled there.  In my freight train dreams I rocked and huddled with thin men wearing hollow faces and eyes burn out by a certain hunger.  It was not a hunger that food could fill or one that could be satisfied by a fickle sunset or a lovesick moon but more a starving of the spirit.  It was a hunger that I followed while I they searched for the ingredient that would make them whole.  We rode the trains across the rivers and through the living rooms of the corn filled continent.  First wheat then cotton, we cut a road through.

I was safe with them.  I knew where their journey ended or at least I thought I did, travelling blind into the deep unknown.  I slept in their warmth, felled by the fire in their hearts as we slid electric through the darkest night, across vacated planted.  My sleeping breath rising in tune with their cowboy harmonicas and my train’s lonely whistle.

They lit cigarettes under lampposts, their stark cheeks haloed, their collars turn up against the wind as they walked hunched, down glistening streets where soulful music shrieked from dark dungeons.  I followed, sheltered from the wind by their bodies, as they led me through a subterranean city of restless wanders who lived in coffee bars and tenements and whose mad dreams lay scattered about floors and floated down from windows, written on tape which was torn and tangled and trod underfoot once the parade had passed.  The thin men shrugged and continued on.

This time to a bountiful place of ripe oranges and grapes seductive to the touch of gaunt and hungry men.  There were women too, plump and brightly coloured, singing songs while they picked and plucked to the suns warm orchestra.  Break was broken, cheese was shared. Days sped towards night which gathered speed as it rode the stories of the places where the thin mean had been.  They talked about life above dead flames and softened our hardened hands and callused hearts with their bitter blood and country wine.

Somewhere in the distance our freight train whistled. Let me gather my cluttered thoughts and clumsy language and take that ride again.

Beach

Sitting on a beach 2,000 miles away.  Funny how the sun feels the same in both places. In Africa someone’s washing flaps above a hard brown ground. I’m thinking about the colours of the shirts.  Are the cuffs and collars frayed?  Washed out thoughts hover three feet above warm sand.  I lick the remains of a chocolate ice cream. Watch the sun slide into a wet blue envelope en-route to your noon.  Airmail.

I can hear the high pitched jangle of tinny township blues coming from cramped and sunless kitchens.  The sun too big to squeeze through small windows.  In mealie fields and tall dry grass whole generations are tending cattle.  They suck absent-mindedly on yellow stems.  Watch the sun drift towards Argentina.

People sleep there in the afternoon.  White panama hats line adobe walls and snore like buffalo under Indian tapestries.  Ice cream drips to my elbow.  Stems get sucked.  Toes tap to smokey saxophones.  The sun does all of these things for us while someone is tied to a chair blindfolded.