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

28 thoughts on “Poem ‘Heat’

  1. 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. 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


  3. 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…


  4. 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!


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


  6. 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.


  7. 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


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


  9. 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.


  10. 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!


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