Sunday, 4 September 2016

september one, lived twice

the journey begins oddly
filled with portents and signs
all too curious to mention
and best not taken seriously
(but they'll be in my novel)
even the man whose eyes tear up
because i remind him of his mother 
which i think may just have been
the effect of too much inflight firewater
otherwise it makes me old
and possibly also dead

after thirteen or so hours aloft
we reach the California coast
blanketed in fog except for
one significant hill above Pescadero
the sight of which always kicks my heart into gear
leaving SFO the taxi driver asks me if i have had any
terrifying experiences in the air
nothing too awful i say
which is his cue to launch into a litany
of gut-wrenching near disasters   

negotiating my release i 
take my encumbrances to the welcome center
where for a financial consideration they 
relieve me of my physical burdens for the day
outside the pavements swell and
roll under my feet - fortunately it is
not the earth, quaking, but my body
set to vibrate mode by the hours of fettered 
rumbling, strapped to a seat
in the flying sardine can

i have things to collect today
some materials for class
a large bag of unruly thoughts 
a ring, and some made-to-measure workboots.
the latter have turned out rather too small
or maybe it is just me, too big for my boots
which could be another sign.
maybe next time cos
good things take time
further up the same street at Macchiarini's
the doorbell won't ring, no pun intended 
but the ring i have come to receive
is truly beautiful with a moonstone
like a drop of Bay water balancing on
a beaten band that looks as though it has been 
pulled from the rubble of a burning building
and so is exactly what i had hoped for.

i do the usual round of favourite places
get my coffee at Trieste, sit awhile on Russian Hill
wander to the park above Fort Mason
snack on cheese under the gum trees there
then walk back to collect my luggage
and drag it across town, giggling inwardly at
the comments that passers-by feel entitled to articulate,
of which the loudest and most critical, oddly enough,
are made by those who share my first language.
they have no idea they are so generously
giving me laughter therapy
and i resist the temptation to say
"schönen Tag, noch!" 

train stations are no longer the romantic places
depicted in Brief Encounter
or in films about Anna Karenina
the temporary transBay terminal is a holding room
for souls desperate to be elsewhere and
the station at Emeryville even more so
where the vending machines make wild promises
but will only sullenly disgorge diet pepsi
filthy stuff that is strictly for cleaning copper
though, once used for that purpose, has impressive 
mordant qualities
i find a tourist map and mark my day on it in thick black pencil

eventually the train pulls in and we fall aboard
i tip myself gratefully into my tiny sleeping closet 
and give myself up to Morpheus for what seems like days
though only a few hours later i awake as we are 
passing through mist-covered desert spiked with piñon and juniper
and wonder if i'm in the right state
then water on which sunlight flashes and blinks
perhaps the merpeople have forgotten to turn their twinkle lights off
somewhere else a broken umbrella hangs batlike
from a bush on the side of a cutting
in Portland i look up and down river as we cross the Willamette
looking for the iron bridge...then realise we are on it

except for the garbled announcements over the tannoy
(there is a special training centre for railway announcers,
run by somebody who teaches them how to 
make announcements in a Turkish accent. 
the same school also supplies the people for 
the Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, Australia)
the Seattle train station is like stepping through 
a time machine into another era
or like stepping deep inside an angel-food cake 
for a white wedding with all the trimmings

i choose the easy way out
and though a braver woman might have 
tackled further public transport
rain is imminent and so i take a taxi.
the driver is old-fashioned and reassures himself 
as to our destination by the simple means of leafing 
through an actual street directory, though i have explained that 
i am heading for a helltell overlooking the ferry dock just
across from Whidbey Island. kindly (and perhaps unusually)
he only switches on the meter after he has closed his book

72 hours give or take a quarter after leaving home 
i enter a room that is not moving and discover to my delight 
that not only does it overlook water, but the doors can actually
be opened wide to the whirled outside
i drift off to the crash of waves and wake at dawn to flat calm
in the distance a ferry hovers in a silver cloud
seabirds stitch their songs across the place where the sealine might be
if it were clear
it's only September 3 but i feel as though i have lived a week 
since the month began
had September 1 twice
and will lose the equinox to the international dateline
but that
will be another story

because now i am here
re-reading a marvellous book i bought at Shakerag in 2010
and soon i shall be 'being (t)here'
but on Whidbey Island, and with slightly longer hair


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  1. I'm massively looking forward to that novel because I didn't want this post to end.............

    p.s. "72 hours give or take a quarter after leaving home
    i enter a room that is not moving ..." = one of the best lines evah !!

  2. Beautiful poetic writing, almost makes travelling sound romantic. I couldn't travel like you I hate air travel. Also looking forward to the novel

  3. i seem to meet strange men on planes, too, one tried to get me to be his online aesthetitician, another was a healer who was trying to convince me he was a feminist...both very emotional. i turtle on long lights and reverberate for hours after. BUT no one writes like you do! i anxiously await that novel.

  4. Your words are poetry..........

  5. Oh India, you are so close!! What a lovely read, thank you, as others have said, your words are poetic and I too didn't want it to stop. You take us all on a travel and for those of us who can't - well, it's a joy. So enjoy that amazing coastal air, have a fabulous class and continue to pass along your extraordinary skills. big hugs.

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Having traveled back and forth to Australia and the US I understand the undulating side walks.

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Having traveled back and forth to Australia and the US I understand the undulating side walks.

  8. Hello India, it's so lovely to travel alongside you - you paint such a wonderful picture with your words. I too am looking forward to the novel - it's sure to be a best seller! Looking forward to another Being (t)here next year. Enjoy the rest of your journeying - and keep on posting. Looking forward to reading about the migrant history when I click on :here: x

  9. Lovely. You have inspired me to forage and experiment out here in my little ship. I had not seen either Katherine or Kathryn's work.
    Thank you!

  10. Definitely buying your novel if it reads like that - lovely

  11. Hi loved your writing I love Annie Dillard's writing and your work has a similar voice to hers if you are not familiar with her work I encourage you to discover it. It will be a journey you will glad to have taken.

    1. thank you Grace, her work is in my reading pile!