Poem ‘Heat’

English: A map of the British Empire in 1921 w...

English: A map of the British Empire in 1921 when it was at its height with British Raj indicated when it too was at its height as well. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When stepping off the ship, heat
hit him,
something heavy and palpable, his duty drawn
out into an exile
stuffing the bank accounts
of far-off millionaires, stuffing
him and the natives from Melbourne
to Manitoba.
Such a relief to be on the train,
officers hankering in rigid
silence for the cool heights of Shimla,
Home Counties in miniature once bleeding
the big world dry, where spinsters
of Little England began to
watch their gingham fade

He favoured his mother’s
side, whose pale skin and eyes were
more fondly remembered
than appreciated, now more than
a world away,
spattered freckles on his face
where the sweat ran
free in that searing carriage;
sights of displaced women
wrapping up in their shawls, children
standing and sitting, staring
and sleeping, heading on to homes they’d
never seen (or ever see), leaving him
to watch the scorched earth slide
by like some weary sentence,
his mind hanging on
to the boney cattle half
hidden in mud, in the channels
of sometime rivers
gaping for monsoon

poem © copyright df barker 2012



  1. ManicDdaily · June 16, 2012

    This is just terrific! I’ve traveled a certain amount in India, have not been to Shimla but Mussouri at least – know that half cattle even though I understand this is an earlier time. It is vivid and wonderfully realized, from the freckled skin of distant mother to shawls. Well done. k.


  2. Pete Armetta · June 16, 2012

    Man, you’ve got SOME imagination Dave Barker! This is such an enjoyable and chilling story, otherworldly really. Love it.


  3. claudia · June 16, 2012

    great capture of him david..could almost smell the sweat and feel the heat… i always know where the english colonies were because the people are driving on the wrong side of the road..smiles


  4. dversepoets · June 16, 2012

    duty in exile….you know there was a time, and still so for soldiers whom i am sure feel the same…following that duty where ever it goes…and i really like the really personal aspect of the second part of this as well…as you bring in the fmaily back home…


  5. brian miller · June 16, 2012

    that was me as dverse…ugh forgot to log out…smiles.


  6. susanjanejones · June 16, 2012

    written with feeling, as usual.


  7. Beautiful poem my friend!


  8. Victoria C. Slotto · June 16, 2012

    You packed so much into this, Dave, allowing us to share both “his” experience and his feeling through your images.


  9. Laurie Kolp · June 16, 2012

    Emotive, vivid piece. I love the first two lines especially… feels like a slap.


  10. charlesmashburn · June 16, 2012

    This is awesome, Charles. A fabulous piece of poetry!


  11. charlesmashburn · June 16, 2012

    OOPS! Sorry, clicked on yours and was thinking it was Chazinator!
    Love your peom!!


  12. hiroshimem · June 16, 2012

    Wow, you’re very good at setting the scene. I was there too, on that train… (adding images that I have just seen about a trip to India… what a coincidence) I like the alliteration right at the beginning, “heat / hit him”. Well written!


  13. Pingback: Poem ‘Heat’ « thebleedingpen
  14. tashtoo · June 17, 2012

    With your words, we experience the same. Hooked from line one and straight thru flawlessly…love the pacing, the imagery…awesome!


  15. hedgewitch · June 17, 2012

    Excellent writing, dry and bitter as gin, full of a sense of place, of loss and the affront of the foreign on senses unaccustomed, with lots of affirmative circumstantial detail to bring it alive across miles and years–the ending lines of the first stanza really caught me, and the close is equally strong.


  16. Betty Hayes Albright · June 17, 2012

    Filled with great imagery, David!


  17. The Course of Our Seasons · June 17, 2012

    Took me to a place I have never been- thanks for the ride! K


  18. Just A Smidgen · June 17, 2012

    Well.. this just transported me.. I’ve so missed your poetry, one of my favorite blogs to read. I love this line best “to watch the scorched earth slide by like some weary sentence” xo Smidge


  19. David King · June 17, 2012

    The picture is brilliantly painted with meaningful details. I was particularly impressed by passages like:
    the scorched earth slide
    by like some weary sentence,


  20. Daydreamertoo · June 17, 2012

    You described the heat, the poor and, the chaos of India so vividly and yes, the heat.
    Great writing.


  21. Lindy Lee · June 17, 2012

    Excellent rendition, so very well written; thank you, FrancisBarkerArt-iste…


  22. Carol Deminski · June 17, 2012

    This is a great piece of work because of the imagery and emotive qualities.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and liking my poetry (scant though it may be compared to my short stories), I’m glad I was introduced to your work as well.


  23. rangewriter · June 17, 2012

    Sad truths.


  24. Anna Montgomery · June 18, 2012

    Oh, this is a wonderful blend of history and imagination. I’ve always wanted to travel to India!


  25. punnypalaver · June 18, 2012

    Fantastic narrative–and the paranthetical “(or ever see)” speaks to us all–you do such a fine job setting the scene, giving depth and histories to characters–really enjoyed this!


  26. dfb · June 18, 2012

    Thank you very much!


  27. Soma Mukherjee · June 18, 2012

    Beautiful poetry David


  28. paigeaddams · June 20, 2012

    Hey there! The Dark Globe follower appreciation post sent me. 🙂 I really like your poems.


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