La Route

– Andre Derain (1932)

Three bars of shadow on a yellow road,
a sky of Chinese blue.
Though there is only the road
and its sidelong songs
to mark time with you, walk on.
Trees talking shadow talk
will make no mention of you.

With your ashplant and knapsack,
you have no notion of rain
or thunder with no rain in it
scarcely worth sheltering from,
even if the village had roofs
and doors to the houses,
music to its two streets.

If you are sorry, as I was,
that you didn’t bring bread with you
and something to wash it down and
maybe a fig for afterwards,
don’t give it another thought.
This is one of many villages
that turns its open palms up to the sun.

Next along the yellow road,
another town will occur to you,
this time, approached by a bridge.
You will hear cowbells and church bells
and a donkey whinging at them.

You will smell loaves rising
and you will quicken your step
until your footprints in the dust
fall upon footprints in the dust
to lead you to a stranger’s door.

No one will be surprised to see you
for your own two children
will be waiting there
with a welcome for you
like a jar of wildflowers
and no harm done.

from X (Gallery Press, 2014), © Vona Groarke 2014, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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