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.