SONG OF THE

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

For Sa­ten­dra Nan­dan I was on a train go­ing some­where, Some­where pleas­ant. The sun was shin­ing The coun­try we were pass­ing through was

beau­ti­ful. The fields soft and green; So deeply fa­mil­iar. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. You could say, I sup­pose, it was my coun­try. Not a fine coun­try of my own Where I was at home, But The di­vided coun­try of My childhood Seen from a pass­ing train. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. The train was com­fort­able, and Not go­ing too fast for me to en­joy the scenery, So it must have been an old train, Fur­nished with blue plush up­hol­stery And bur­nished tim­ber, Smelling of Erin­more pipe to­bacco, Or per­haps it was Dig­ger Shag. It was my fa­ther who smoked Dig­ger Shag. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. The win­dow at which I sat, Fac­ing the di­rec­tion of travel, The best seat in the car­riage, Trem­bled, the tremor in­side the boy in­side me When I closed my eyes And touched the tips of my fin­gers to the glass. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. I was con­tent; With my achieve­ments in life You could say. It was there, The sense of my ac­com­plish­ments, Know­ing my­self To be among the priv­i­leged. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. The train stopped at the sta­tion And I got off. It was the fron­tier. I lined up and waited with the oth­ers. I had no fear, know­ing my good visa Would ad­mit me to any coun­try on This Earth. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. And did I tell you I was wear­ing my new jacket? The black tweed; the weaver declar­ing him­self On the silk la­bel in the lin­ing: ‘‘ I have woven

this tweed by hand In Done­gal Ire­land Ex­clu­sively for Kevin & Howlin Of Nas­sau Street, Dublin.’’ And signed it, he had; J. J. Camp­bell, Weaver. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. I was proud to be wear­ing it. Proud of my­self, of who I was with my good visa, Safe in the in­side pocket, right-hand, Earned by the sweat and strug­gle Of my own hard weav­ing days. My wife bought a cap there And looked great in it, Smil­ing the way she did. God bless her mem­ory. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. The fron­tier guards wore green, Smart and ef­fi­cient, they were, Uni­form, you could see that. And not smil­ing. The fam­ily of four ahead of me Were qui­etly asked to stand to one side. There was no ban­ter in the ex­change, But a ges­ture of the gloved hand, Di­rect­ing them; The words mur­mured, There! Stand over there, please. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. I was asked for my visa. Be­yond the bar­rier other guards stood Watch­ing, hands clasped be­hind their backs. The one on the left smoked A thin black cigar. Which made me smile. Se­nior of­fi­cers, I sup­posed, keep­ing an eye On the ju­niors. I re­sisted a de­sire to flour­ish my Good visa, and in­stead laid it mod­estly Into the open glove of the guard. There, that is who I am. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. He stamped my visa and, Salut­ing me gravely, Handed it back. And that is how I crossed the fron­tier Into the new coun­try. And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. As I passed the fam­ily of four, The mother hold­ing the small­est child In her arms, the other child hold­ing Its fa­ther’s hand, Their eyes begged me to in­ter­vene And help them. Their de­spair Struck a blow to my chest. But what was I to do? And I al­ways thought: the very sim­plest words Must be enough. Be­yond the town the road Led the eye into the in­te­rior of the desert. The prospect re­mind­ing me Of the road from Tu­nis to El Djem, Which I had trav­elled with my beloved wife, And our com­pan­ion, the ar­chae­ol­o­gist, Ne­jib, From the In­sti­tut Na­tional d’Arche­olo­gie et

d’Dart, Tu­nis. A man of learn­ing, He asked me not to speak so freely of Pol­i­tics to our driver, a man with A large mous­tache who, at lunch, re­fused My of­fer of wine with a dis­dain­ful, ‘‘ Al­co­hol has never passed my lips.’’ ‘‘ He re­ports you to Ben Ali’s men,’’

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