FLYING TO JOHANNESBURG


 

1

 

This is no journey for old men. We have

too many entanglements, too many

memories. Too arduous to travel

south through a whole day or a whole night,

yet with too little time for unresolved,

unresolvable enigmas, day and night:

a single camel train in the Sahara;

sporadic bonfires in the Congo.

 

 

2

 

Whether Heathrow, Charles De Gaulle or Schipol,

after Security’s uncertainty,

there is the glare of Departures with its

faux glamour, its gimcracks, its gewgaws,

its profligacy – the entire world

to fly to. And the briefest moment

to observe the human condition:

our gestures, our rage, our laughter, our stories.

 

 

3

 

The clocks tick quickly at the world’s centre.

We must suddenly rush – into relentless,

blank walled, silent tunnels – excoriating

the effort and tedium of travel.

Yet the temporary optimism of take-off

revives – that two hundred tons and more

can ease into air, almost like a bird,

with all of manicured Europe beneath us!

 

 

4

 

As the undercarriage whirrs open and locks,

I remember the purpose of my journey,

thinking of the friends who are waiting,

whose struggles I can only imagine,

their stories monuments. So Joburg, Jozi,

the City of Gold does become ‘a country

for old men’ – who have lived long enough

to see, at last, a little justice done!

 

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by John Huddart - February 22nd, 2013 at 15:57

    The cunning way the references to old men begin and end this poem is what makes it good. So the air journey is like a real journey taken and the journey through life’s experiences and concerns. And then there’s the way the references to age and being no longer so engaged with issues focus on how important they still remain.

  2. #2 by David Selzer - February 26th, 2013 at 10:42

    The title, the structure and ‘no journey for old men’ are intended to echo faintly Yeats’ poem:

    Sailing to Byzantium

    That is no country for old men. The young
    In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
    – Those dying generations – at their song,
    The salmon?falls, the mackerel?crowded seas,
    Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
    Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
    Caught in that sensual music all neglect
    Monuments of unageing intellect.

    An aged man is but a paltry thing,
    A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
    Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
    For every tatter in its mortal dress,
    Nor is there singing school but studying
    Monuments of its own magnificence;
    And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
    To the holy city of Byzantium.

    O sages standing in God’s holy fire
    As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
    Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
    And be the singing?masters of my soul.
    Consume my heart away; sick with desire
    And fastened to a dying animal
    It knows not what it is; and gather me
    Into the artifice of eternity.

    Once out of nature I shall never take
    My bodily form from any natural thing,
    But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
    Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
    To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
    Or set upon a golden bough to sing
    To lords and ladies of Byzantium
    Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

  3. #3 by roze albina ches - March 4th, 2013 at 22:00

    I always enjoy reading your work, David. Thank you for sharing.

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