Sunday, June 20, 2010

5/30/2010 – Day Thirteen of England Tour: Passports in Our Minds

These past two weeks I have toured

Museums and castles that blew my mind;

Tintern Abbey and an ancient castle,

Or what’s left of them;

Vast rooms and high ceilings

With bricks missing in action

And assembled together

Like Picasso paintings

Of human faces come undone,

Disjointed in disarray,

Walls open to the fields,

Ceilings open to the sky.

Robert Herrick wrote a poem

Entitled “Delight in Disorder,”

“A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness;
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthralls the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly;
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat;
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility;—
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.”

Disorder is a mark of age

For castles of medieval origins,

Fragmented from the years

With “a wild civility,”

A rustic ruggedness,

Marks of a worn passport

That has seen many worlds

Evolve from the same piece of land.

I’m at that point where going out

On explorers’ treks through town

Is secondary to staying in

And reading in the lounge—

Books acquired on our travels

And puzzles at dinner tables

Are now pastimes for us bold trekkers;

Travel is weary, luxury stable.

In this lounge we talk of our travels,

Of the British and their Italian food,

Of coffee shops and street performers,

Of Spotted Dick—

A British pudding spotted with raisins

And topped with Squirty Cream—

Not yet in the States

But looking back with nostalgia

At the places we’ve been,

Our minds like passports stamped

And worn from use and carry.

In this hostel

We are not served, nor are we starved,

For we shop to fill this pantry;

Butter our toast in the morning,

Eat our lunch on our coach travels,

Cook for ourselves and feast by night.

In this hostel

We feast tonight

On pasta and salad,

Cheesecake and chips,

Water and soda,

Courtesy of our chaperones,

Grandfatherly in their care—

For their reputations would suffer

If they let students starve under the watch—

We own this hostel

Like the birds own Stonehenge,

Feeding ourselves,

Staying in, going out.

It’s a hostel, for goodness sake—

A pseudo-hotel for poorer people—

So why do we feel so at home?

Why do the couches and the books in our bags

Beckon us more than the outside world?

We have been places, and travelled throughout;

And now we are the birds of Stonehenge.

The ones giving admission

And charging us for room and board

Do not own it—

We are the birds of Stonehenge,

And for the time being,

This is our home.

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