Poetry: John Thieme

John Thieme

The Years

“Eat labba and drink creek water and you will always come back to Guyana” (Guyanese proverb)

In years gone by,
I loved this valley, near the mighty Essequibo,
where cow wood trees breathed upward to the skies,
and labba drank pure water from the creek.

Then, last year, smiling strangers came,
to build an ecotourist camp.
They felled the trees along the hillside;
they built a half-completed road.
I heard one say their asphalt was all “local”,
because it came from Trinidad’s Pitch Lake.
I heard this rutted track was “passable” –
for those who had a four-wheel drive.

This year the rains came earlier than usual,
mudding waters down the forest slopes,
denuded, last year, of the cow wood trees.
This year there is no road here,
no sign of “progress” in the bush.
The strangers packed their launch and left,
to build a highway in another land.

I saw one smiling at the people’s proverb:
a superstition of deluded folk.
The labba disappeared around the same time.
Could it be the strangers ate them?
And if they drank the water,
here’s hoping they got dysentery.
The proverb wasn’t meant for such as them.

In years gone by,
I loved this valley, near the mighty Essequibo.


Don’t Tell Me

Read me endless Mormon scriptures
in Salt Lake City’s foetid air.
Feed me thirsty spikes of cactus.
Criticize the clothes I wear.
Force unshelled peanuts down my gullet.
Cheat me with decks of fifty-one.
But – may I say this in a whisper?
Please don’t tell me what to do.

Turn this poem to confetti,
shredded pieces in the wind.
Raid my fridge and steal spaghetti;
take the chicken that I skinned.
Slash the tires of my Citroen.
Scrape fingers down my kitchen wall.
Slight the memory of my mother.
Confiscate my basset’s ball.
But – may I say this gently and politely?
Please don’t tell me what to do.

Tell the Pope I was the graffiti artist,
who drew houris in St Peter’s Square.
Say that I put gremlins in the Kremlin,
and desecrated Ipanema’s sands.
Mug me in Manhattan’s subway.
Abandon me beside the Taj.
Throw me in the once-blue Danube.  
Pelt me with eggs in Leicester Square.
But – may I say this very slightly louder?
Please, please don’t tell me what to do.

1 comment :

  1. extremely provocative poetry. eco-concerns have found their full expression in the first poem. the second one is as profound as the first one. its whispers are louder than sirens and pierce straight through the heart. incredible!!!

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