Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Watcher

The Watcher

I met a man by the marina,
Shirtless in September sun.
He had a pendant on his chest,
With symbol that resembled gun.

Upon his face, there grew a beard,
Quite scraggly, and an orange-red
That matched what hair he still had left
That grew as wild upon his head.

His nails were long like claws, with dirt
Compacted into crescents black,
And yet of wit and wisdom he
Did not, we found, completely lack.

He'd wandered by this western sea,
For many years, and knew the planes
That flew above, and could, by sound
Of cabin horn, distinguish trains.

"See -- that's the plane from New York City,
Coming in to land, and -- hark!
That's the train from Sacramento,
Emerging from the tunnel's dark!"

"See there, across the Bay, the fog
Retreating past the Golden Gate...
Today it will be warm and calm,
But winter may be long, though late..."

So all the life around the Bay
Had entered him, and there he was,
Quite shirtless that September day,
A witness to what is or was.

The gulls and squirrels knew this man,
With dirty nails and gnarled hands,
That pendant on his chest that shone,
As sun beat down on brownish pants.

He was familiar, like the sea
That lay becalmed, as boaters tried
To catch what little wind they could,
And far away, the Amtrak cried...

"Look there!", he said, "Right by that house
You'll see it run, if eyes are good!"
And sure enough, the silver sped
Right by that house, into the wood...

He'd been in Vietnam, had relished
Fighting for imagined cause;
But now, he said, "With age I'm wiser,
This war's for oil, and not for laws!"       *

He'd worked at jobs of all descriptions,
Adding to the labor force;
He'd wandered over lands and oceans,
And learned what's fine and what is coarse.

And now he sat by the marina,
Watching all the world unfold,
In the role of he who listens,
As the tale of life is told.

Babui Jana (Arjun Janah)
2006 September 17th, Sun.
Berkeley, California

* "this war" is the war in Iraq, begun by the U.S. in 2003 -- and still ongoing in 2006.