By: Stephen Kingsnorth
Wrap, face, skin reflecting pile pineapples,
toothy sarong fruit vendors
sentry corners, slow spiral screw
to mountains drag-drawn from flatland haze.
Lushed tier paddies, suspended tanks,
glitter dun-lime battle grounds,
side-step from trunked trunk haulers,
gross chink-link necklaces,
chained to logs and bored mahouts;
noising in the jungle edge,
pale emerging stolid heads,
as if shades of surreptitious undergrowth.
The drunken road repeated, and again,
offers perfect picture scene,
as alien as Gangetic plain to home;
but I, poised, sigh-miss most –
by eight and luggage, style is cramped,
elbows, sweat and wonderment.
At one curve stall,
after we tumble-crawl evacuate,
the cab bump-starts reverse
down-hill, meets two climbing:
taxi skill and rupee call.
Tribal hostel is our summit goal
where Sanga, student of the Naga race
offers bed – raised grain board
and thinner air.
Sanga’s past, mere dozen years, hunt heads.
Bent over to-be-shared hard-wood base
he kneels in prayer;
are his gracious thanks, the whimsy pass,
words for the Galilean or a pre-meal grace?
When I mowed the outer field
in burning sun, my copper head
failed to recognise host strategy.
As I circled, drawing in,
expecting rabbit targets at the bull
(can hardly say cornered in circumference)
the Kentucky cowboys
watched me work, sat with beer
(gin is my elixir of life, the tin bath stills
of mountain dew in the hillbilly
woods beyond the scrub).
I now know the date for course;
then untutored, less bothered anyway.
They swigged and laughed
that I had fallen in their trap
though I did not admit the bait
(if you understand, I’m mean).
Independence Day they said
we’ll watch the limey work, we’ll play
but I said July fourth does not signify for me.
They choked the bottle when I declared,
with some pomposity I guess,
in my best posh English which they mocked,
that I was glad they’d gone away.
No recognition from the Stetson-topped,
but I hummed The British Grenadiers
and thought busbies grander
than their wide brimmed hats,
even if my hair would melt
in that heat-cruel concentrate.
When that central final swathe was reached
there were no rodents, eye-rollings in the hay
(as Mum had regaled from her Somerset
Are bunnies rodents anyway?
I checked: they moved before first world war,
like secrets, they were re-classified).
There was a snake, a copperhead,
but none would roll in hay with that.
Iced Howdie Steve, they made a cake
on my first day, and saw me off
for Greyhound race, the pampas next.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by some twenty on-line poetry sites, including Literary Yard; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader, Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines, Vita Brevis Anthology & Fly on the Wall Press ‘Identity’.