For lack of companions you will talk
To yourself; ask how a thought started -
With needs or words? Which was the first to stalk
Paths, which go where you can't predict,
Where crowds thump out slogan after slogan
In squares where the same posters are stacked
Sky high, and flash and flicker in the brain
Images of horror and suspicion;
Where you hear your own voice on the phone
Attempt to find out when you might be free;
Where you'll see advace towards you someone
You thought you knew, and look again to see
That it's you, in a mirror, moving on.
You will say, in the middle of a city,
One day, among friends you've not met for years,
"The best part is always what you don't see -
The imagined, the hoped for, the missed chances."
Like the moment long ago when you heard
Someone sing, in a room across the street,
A song you didn't know, and wondered
Who the singer was, and why you could not greet
Her when you saw her face at the window.
Worst is a nightmare, never yet explained,
That travel has only caused to grow -
A roulette wheel, from which you cannot descend,
Where, like a silver ball, you bounce and spin,
Never to settle, neither out nor in.
You may tell your story when there's no one
To listen. No need to look for a laugh
Or exaggerate in aid of fashion
Or art; and if you manage to convey half
Of what you believe happened, you may
Have helped history.
Back from your journey
The hardest thing is to know how to pay
Tribute to the best you met on the way;
They will stand in your memory, hands
Raised in greeting or farewell, dignity
And reserve masking the natural kindness,
Which is the root and custome of their lands.
They'll be the heroes of your adventures;
From them your hope and inspiration grows.
Bold shifts of emphasis have swept
The place you left; and your ideas, lost
Under the feet of new regimes, have crept
Away, uncertain of their worth, and cost
Nothing on the market now; your return goes
Unnoticed; and your discoveries
Seem common place; while those, who can discern
Something of strength and value in your journeys,
Fear they might lose face, if they protested
The plants and creatures you brought back.
Yet, why should you, who never contested
For applause or trophies, regret a lack
Of fame? For close your eyes, instead you'll hear
The triumphant shriek of monkeys in your ear.
The changes that have occurred in the place,
Where you first drew up your plans to travel,
Will make you think you've come back somewhere else,
And that you'll have a new story to tell
About people, who like to shout a slogan
To make it clear they know they're right,
Prove it true by endless repetition,
And finding an excuse to pick a fight.
When you approach these proud strangers, take care
Not to look at them too closely, or try
To work out what kind of men they are,
Who are your brothers, yet chalk "no entry"
On their foreheads. They are explorers too
But can they know that what they've found is you?