When You Get There

Right at the end of the Lugnez valley,
beyond the back of the back of beyond,
the mountains cradle the town of Garaús,

whose name translates poorly as “the very end”.
An ill-chosen name it would seem since a path
carries on past the graveyard, and then veers off

left through the alderwood brush to the bridge.
This spans the Giur Daun, a river whose name
you’ll look up in vain on the ordinance map.

The track mounts a ridge first, drops for a stretch,
then climbs a dark chimney of igneous rock,
thus leading further and up to the point

where a wide-bottomed valley with rolling fields
spreads out in front – yellow and green.
This place has an absolute absence of names:

Nameless the people, their homes, and their hopes.
Unnamed the three bus-lines which serve the vale.
None of the drivers was given a name.

Yet you will recall each one of the men,
each face a lifelike rendering
of one of your acquaintances.

You will feel they should answer you,
yet they are not ambassadors.
Only drivers with no knowledge

of the people they resemble.
Besides, you’re not to speak to them
says the sign above their heads.

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7 Responses to When You Get There

  1. What an interesting poem, Roland. I see this place with its absence of names, yet get the feeling that it’s a real place … why must you not speak to the drivers, I wonder ..? An intrigue to be sure. Fascinating poem.

    • Kallis says:

      Thanks Polly! In all Swiss public buses there is that sign “Do not speak to the driver” (right above the driver’s head) and it made sense here, as the idea is that once you’ve gone across the river Jordan (hence “Giurdaun”) you will only be given those three hints (the three drivers reminding you of three people you knew) and then it will be up to you to figure out why these three are the people you meet on the other side. The place is unnamed because it is not about heaven or hell, just about the other side. (This happened when I was hiking in the – existing – Lugnez valley and had been reading “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” with a class. (The poem was 50% longer before it went into the Sean O’Brien chop-house…)

  2. Beat says:

    I keep coming back to it, what a riddle! Posted on Christmas eve, at trip beyond the final step … – to freedom…, thanks!

  3. Kallis says:

    Giudaun für Jordan is alright, I think – Garaus for that invented village is probably a bit much for any German speaker 🙂

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