Friday, October 26, 2007

Tour Guide '85

TOUR GUIDE ‘85

More than guide, our guide -
a leader who advises and, in
his young and handsome way, cajoles:
“Stay with the group and follow me –

Don’t linger, even for an instant,
I can’t guarantee your safety if you do.”
English spoken correctly with an accent
and with Romanian emphasis, panache.

With funny tummy, feeling groggy, must
Decide: should I get on the coach or not?
No looking back, we’re on, and being counted.
When we board the airy motor launch

with wooden slat seats on its deck,
“You can have a soft drink,”
he announces over the sound system.
“I recommend the beer.”

From the first sip I see why;
tasting that cool Moldavian draft
a new landscape opens up. After that
the stomach’s fine; the launch chugs on,

onto Danube’s wide waters
the sun turns to fiery ice;
and the rising notes of a young
accordion player accompany us

released with subtle and peculiar-to
-his region rhythms and flaring riffs;
as heat beats down on wood-hard seats,
the launch goes on and into Noon and lunch:

an old village on an island
where they farm all Summer for the frozen flood
of Winter; a pale place where chickens run.
The guide – now serious – explains, disturbs

the account of hardship is so grim –
and what he doesn’t tell us,
couldn’t tell us, though later on he knew,
the deprivation was both giant and wicked.


At last we reach the port,
the evening soft as feathers floating,
and we follow and do not linger,
reaching the upstairs restaurant by the water:

the harbour of Constantia where
we’ve stepped into a sea of good ions
and our guide has gone quiet, becomes
invisible, as here he knows we’re safe

being feted at the long wooden tables,
cared for by sisters of the revolution –
a meal that is simple, yet
amounts to a delicious nourishment;

the music entertaining, not too strident,
adds to the sense of the evening passing
full of light, and the wine, not exactly
flowing, is glowing with Arcadian life!


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3 comments:

Lucy said...

Fascinating, and very sympathetic to your guide!
I wonder how diferent it would be now?

Lucas said...

Yes - it was a long time ago. We visited Romania twice in those years just before the fall of Coucesceau. It is a beautiful country.
Thanks for this.

Plutarch said...

A rich one, this. Amazing how memory concentrates the experience. "Emotion recollected in tranquility."