The Halfway House, Page XV

From Coptos to Canopus now

The ibis and the aeroplane

Continues through the sky:

Far off the desert stretches, slow

Miles of mystery

In which the traveller walks again.


To think that rivers flow beneath

Merely a million grains of sand;

That pools cascade,

Unseen, unheard, to a depth

Of hidden water; and

That this world of thirst has reservoirs inside.


All on the surface still, he tries

With tinted glass to stem the glare:

An agony of light

Dissolves the spectrum by his eyes,

And he must stare and stare

At the mirage of himself in flight.


The donkeys move about him, just

Close enough to hear him sigh

As sand and stone press on

Into the distance. How long must

He follow the lie

Of the ruined land? When will the past be undone?


He sees and sees and sees, but does

Not see how rescue ever comes

To the traveller in time:

His will, so long enslaved, still goes

On dragging its great sums

Of sorrow in identical rhyme.


Desert on desert, and another.

Is there a green field anywhere

And some sort of water?

World without ever meeting a brother

Continues, is it forever?

On his knees now, the traveller forced to prayer.