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 β€”
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 Β© copyright df barker 2012

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30 comments

  1. Pete Armetta · May 21, 2012

    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! πŸ™‚

    Like

  2. magsx2 · May 21, 2012

    Hi,
    I really like this poem, a bit different, very nice indeed. πŸ™‚

    Like

  3. Ina · May 21, 2012

    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!

    Like

  4. Emma · May 21, 2012

    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.

    Like

  5. dfb · May 21, 2012

    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! πŸ™‚
    Thank you Emma – I shall try to catch up with your posts!

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  6. dfb · May 21, 2012

    Thank you very much Ina. Yes, this is almost true! He was a very nice guy to meet, whoever he was…

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  7. dfb · May 21, 2012

    Thank you very much mags!

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  8. dfb · May 21, 2012

    Thanks Pete, I’m very grateful.

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  9. patricemj · May 21, 2012

    I love this. Some people remain with us for a very long time. If they only knew πŸ˜‰

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  10. susanjanejones · May 21, 2012

    A fleeting meeting of souls. Special moments in time.

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  11. A beautiful and masterful poem my friend!

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  12. dfb · May 21, 2012

    Thank you!

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  13. dfb · May 21, 2012

    Thank you!!!

    Like

  14. Victoria C. Slotto · May 21, 2012

    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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  15. dfb · May 21, 2012

    Oh, thank you so much Victoria! No wonder I’m so miserable! 😦 πŸ˜‰

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  16. Victoria C. Slotto · May 21, 2012

    I understand. I spent 3 years in Brittany! But your work always lights up the place, David.

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  17. granbee · May 21, 2012

    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.)

    Like

  18. Betty Hayes Albright · May 22, 2012

    I enjoyed this poem about your encounter with the “Californian” – thanks for sharing this wonderful memory, David.

    Like

  19. claudia · May 22, 2012

    wow…what an interesting and kind of surreal encounter…very cool and atmospheric..

    Like

  20. dfb · May 22, 2012

    Claudia, I’m grateful thank you very much!

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  21. dfb · May 22, 2012

    Thank you Betty – most of it is based on truth! πŸ™‚

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  22. dfb · May 22, 2012

    Yes, you’re right GB. We’ve seen too many movies! Thank you!

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  23. dfb · May 22, 2012

    Thank you Victoria!

    Like

  24. Three Well Beings · May 22, 2012

    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

    Like

  25. dfb · May 22, 2012

    Thank you Debra – I’m grateful!

    Like

  26. Francina · May 22, 2012

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

    Ciao, Francina

    Like

  27. dfb · May 22, 2012

    Thank you Francina!

    Like

  28. rangewriter · May 24, 2012

    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.

    Like

  29. bardessdmdenton · June 4, 2012

    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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  30. dfb · June 6, 2012

    Thank you very much!

    Like

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