You'll need no calendar on the way:
Every season's indifferent to its myth
And can't respond to acts of faith
That try to keep flood, famine, drought at bay.
The earth's upset and is out of kilter
With the sun and moon; it's no use to ask
What's the time, or complete a simple task
Within a period you can't measure.
And if you want to know what year it is,
The reckoning varies with who was born
And when, and who you choose to love or scorn.
Now the compass needles spin, as sages
Say they will; you must play dice to get through,
And chance alone will keep you steering true.
You must learn, when it's time to move on,
To leave no trace of your brief stay, no ash,
Charred wood, husk of nut, animal bone;
Let no cough escape, twig snap, no light flash.
An explorer, not one to be explored,
You'll not be prey that hunters can pursue,
Nor move, watched every square across the board,
A pawn, which knows how little it can do.
You'll be treated as a coloniser
After wealth, by those who never learnt
The art of peace nor yet the art of war.
Better that they should look about and say:
It's clear no one's been here today.
Every explorer seems an intruder
To be accused of espionage
And found, when crossing a border,
To have maps or field glasses in his charge.
A fear of strangers is a common state
Of people threatened by their own self-doubt;
So better to know what drug or opiate
They relax with or choose to knock them out.
Perhaps you'll become friends and swap clichés
Across a table, mingle politics
With sentiment; and think of ways
To ease the trade in sly half truths and tricks,
To find your way across a hostile land
With words its government will understand.
When you return to maps and grubby texts
To find out where you've been and aim to go,
You'll see that stains of damp and smudged insects
Have obscured the routes you used to follow,
And made a cypher of the way ahead:
There is too much art and literature.
If there are messages encrypted there
Or piles of smoke stacked against the sun,
No matter: it's time to pull on your boots,
Walk free; you're not a tree and need no roots.
It's best, when hard-pressed, always to go slow,
Sharpen your knife with care, know where to stop,
Just where to cut, and where the buds will grow;
There is no hurry in the rising sap.
And you need not hurry to get somewhere,
(Whatever your strategy or the lack of it)
Which is just a step on a moving stair,
Past which fleeting images fit,
Or not, templates of what you most desire.
Slowly raise your wineglass to your lips
As though nothing else mattered; slowly light
A cigarette; slowly place your footsteps
In the uneasy maze of wrong and right.
Though you walk just from A to B, you'll see
The whole alphabet spread out like a tree