The Gate

This is as far as I can go.
Beyond these rails lies alien land although
it scorched me times enough in summers past.
I knew those groves of orange trees when they
swayed hat-hand high beside
a tall, smoke-clouded man who hoed
the water down along a row
of freshly-planted tamarisk slips. Then I
stood lock-high by
the scar the jamming gate-latch rasped
across the strainer post.

And later when the rails grew down
around my elbows, dust-pink blossoms crowned
the tamarisk hedge and formed a shadow-frame
above us and the dark was full of crickets.
Conclaves at the gate when night-wind swayed
the flames where match-light showed that hands
can tremble over pipe-howls and
it seemed that voices grew a little grey
with years. But days
passed slowly still and harvests came –
and the gate still jammed.

A while ago the owner walked round –
wary, talked with guarded eyes, then frowned
and watched awhile. He couldn’t understand
a stranger shaking up his gate to see
if the latch still bit. He stared
again  –  and went on working. Spray
hangs curtained in the air the way
it always did – like pipe-smoke drifts. But there
the gate stands bare
and silent now the voices and
the tamarisks have gone.

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