Breakfast on the Flagstaff to Los Angeles Express
Sky-blue Pacific to the west and
Low, scrubby hills on the eastern side,
The LA train rumbles north,
While the sun just cuts the horizon.
California morning and we are at breakfast,
Sitting ‘side by side’ as
Those sassy waiters demand.
We two face the unfilled seats
Until a couple of old guys slowly
Settle on us and ease their creaky limbs
Beneath the table that divides us.
Those peaked caps and hillbilly shirts!
Emphatically American; disturbingly ancient.
But urbane and loquacious. William is 95,
He tells us, ‘And, this is my kid brother, Clark.’
Smiling, he reports that being the younger
Earns Clark a night’s sleep
In the top bunk. We imagine
The thrice-a-night clamber down
To ease that geriatric bladder.
They are both deaf, thin as rakes,
And the prospect looms of
A good breakfast spoiled, and conversation
As stodgy as lukewarm porridge.
But these two put us to shame,
So much to say and such lives to be shared:
Take the Catalinas William flew in the war,
Or his ancestral line to Daniel Boone, or
Their long-distance pilgrimage to
Their old school’s reunion in Kansas,
The brothers preferring this silvered train
To a mundane flight in some soulless Boeing.
‘Foreign Aid for the State Department,’
He said when I asked about his working life,
‘Going in after the British left.’
We laughed at both sets of mess the
Fumbling Yanks and Brits had left behind.
Breakfast over, we parted, saddened
That our paths would never cross again.
But heartened – uplifted – by these two American
Pioneers and their appetite for the journey.
(c) Richard Knott
This poem first appeared in The Cannon’s Mouth, June 2019.