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Eunice Tietjens: On the Canton River Boat

 tietjenseunice005

Eunice Tietjens

(1884 – 1944)

 

 

On the Canton River Boat

 

Up and down, up and down, paces the sentry.

He is dressed in a uniform of khaki and his socks are

green. Over his shoulder is slung a rifle, and

from his belt hang a pistol and cartridge pouch.

He is, I think, Malay and Chinese mixed.

 

Behind him the rocky islands, hazed in blue, the yellow

sun-drenched water, the tropic shore, pass as a

background in a dream.

He only is sweltering reality.

Yet he is here to guard against a nightmare, an

anachronism, something that I cannot grasp.

He is guarding me from pirates.

 

Piracy! The very name is fantastic in my ears, colored

like a toucan in the zoo.

And yet the ordinance is clear: “Four armed guards,

strong metal grills behind the bridge, the engine-room

enclosed–in case of piracy.”

 

The socks of the sentry are green.

Up and down, up and down he paces, between the

bridge and the first of the life-boats.

In my deck chair I grow restless.

 

Am I then so far removed from life, so wrapped in

cotton wool, so deep-sunk in the soft lap of civilization,

that I cannot feel the cold splash of truth?

It is a disquieting thought–for certainly piracy seems

as fantastic as ever.

 

The socks of the sentry annoy me. They are _too_

green for so hot a day.

And his shoes squeak.

I should feel much cooler if he wouldn’t pace so.

Piracy!

 

(Somewhere on the River)

 

Eunice Tietjens poetry

fleursdumal.nl magazine

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