This Week’s Poem

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.

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