Poem ‘The Californian’

The Californian

To this day I don’t know for sure
who you were.
You sounded American
and dressed like a Californian,
or that’s how it seemed
to my parochial mind.

I wasn’t used to your friendliness,
being spoken to so kindly
by a complete stranger,
but then, that was the thing —
I felt I knew you.
Why didn’t I ask your name?

The event had brought us together.
Now we waited for the train
to take us back through Cumbria’s
rounded hills, always threatened by rain.
And true to form, despite it being July,
we found ourselves sheltering
in a little cafe, sipping bad coffee
made more palatable with cream.
That’s where I saw you surfing
in my mind’s eye,
feeling that smelting sun sink
beyond an ocean of glass.
We had just enough time
to assess our few days
in the company of a Buddha.
At least that’s what we said, if I recall,
and that we, too, might be Bodhisattvas!
And who’s to say we weren’t right?

Even now, when I play that album,
I keep looking at the picture
of the kind-looking man, all smiles,
with the sweet and beaten guitar.
He still looks an awful lot like you

poem and image © copyright df barker 2012

30 thoughts on “Poem ‘The Californian’

  1. As a former Californian among other things I totally love this and can imagine hanging out with some Brit somewhere and confounding them haha In a good way, like in this poem. Lots of fun here Dave! :)

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  2. Hi David
    this man, maybe you knew him (other life, if only that could be!)
    maybe he was on your wave length…
    Encounters like this I think are little presents of life. Meeting nice people, then losing contact, but they will always be there somewhere in your memory. Lovely poem!

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  3. Hey David, great to see you back posting. This is fascinating to me. First of all you’ve got the wonderful narrative style, which I love in poetry, and secondly your subject. I’m always interested to hear and read about how Americans are perceived by non-Americans. This is a nice glimpse into an encounter. The painting is stunning as well.

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  4. Hi Emma, thank you very much.
    Well, there is a lot of truth in this one, believe it or not! I’d been to a buddhist festival and when I was waiting at the train station this very ‘good looking’ (can a man say that about a man?) guy, longish hair, in a long coat in July. He spoke and was clearly American, so friendly and interesting and interested in me. And I never did ask his name. But there was something familiar about him.
    Nearly every American I have encountered, and I don’t say this to please you, has been so kind, so helpful, so polite! I think it something we English/British need to work on!:)
    Thank you Emma – I shall try to catch up with your posts!

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  5. This California native daughter and now seasonal (Winter!) Californian is smiling. A fun read and overall on target. I do think the clement weather has an affect on personality!

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  6. I really love the way British folk picture so many of us “artsy” and “poetic” and “musical” Americans as being Californian. I truly do enjoy it–and enjoyed your poem here very much (which I though you were writing just a tiny bit tongue-in-cheek while celebrating the time you spent with that person, as well.)

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  7. I am a Southern Californian…and somehow this felt right. I did laugh at the “dress like a Californian.” That intrigues me. Once I was in a store in Arizona and a woman approached me to say that she could tell I was from California because I dressed “flamboyantly.” To this day I have no idea what that meant…but maybe “we” do dress a certain way. Californians are friendly and can be misunderstood out of our natural habitat because most of us have never met a stranger! You picked up on that! Debra

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  8. A very interesting encounter you had, made me curious about the person you met. Very fine write, David.

    Ciao, Francina

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  9. I often hear references to the friendliness of Americans. That is good…we have plenty of other bad traits. Yet I’m puzzled because wherever I’ve traveled….even in Paris….I have found the natives to be extremely helpful and cordial. Of course, I’ve not yet been to your country, but I suspect the Brits are just as kind and friendly as any…

    Great poem.

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  10. Such an interesting encounter…and so distinctly described and reflected on in your poem…the painting really enhancing the whole experience of your sharing! (And so glad you find Americans friendly for the most part. They probably try harder when they are abroad…)

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