"Long Walk" by Chris Ellery
Here is a poem by Chris Ellery, a wonderful poet I chanced upon in Damascus this summer. His poem, "Long Walk" is a good tonic after all the politics.
2661 Yale Ave.
San Angelo, TX 76909
When you walk all day with someone
and neither knows the other’s language,
you will find much to talk about.
Rafik is Arab. His letters are sun and moon.
On the maseer, the “long walk,”
where we meet, we pass
through orange groves, olive groves,
through the ancient rugged country, up
and down a twisting way.
Taking my arm, he says a hundred times,
“Hello.” His only word of English.
“Hello”—again and again until it becomes
HOL-low, hilloh, HAY-L-O-O-O-O—
just to break the silence
with a bright, round nimbus of speech.
He gives me cigarettes, food, plucks
oranges from the trees to sweeten my walk.
When we come to a village, I am
the first to drink the cold well water. When dark comes
to “Hyena Heaven,” and I am
so tired, he points his torch
before my feet
to light the treacherous path.
without food or smokes,
how can I reciprocate?
“Shukran.” Thanks. That is my one word.
Well, that was years ago.
Rafik has learned a little English,
I a little Arabic.
Meeting half way like this, we find
more and more to say,
more and more in the wordless quiet
our footsteps leave.