Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Ferrymen

Old Mr Loteef crosses the Buriganga
sixty times a day.
He dodges cargo ships and gravel barges,
his single-oared sampan earning him
a two taka  fare –  too small
to register as currency
for Mr Colin
enjoying a ferryman’s holiday.

His river is the Thames.
But today he sits beneath
a black umbrella
as Mr Loteef, tired of forty-degree,
fourteen-hour days
and sometimes navigating
by the moon,
slowly carries him across.

'If God gave me wings I’d go back
to my village and mark my father’s grave.'
He tells Mr Colin he owns a plot
of land, too small to feed his family.
If he could buy two cows
they wouldn’t have to live
in Dhaka’s slums, but one cow
costs more than a year’s rowing.

At home in London,
Mr Colin is staring at the moon
thinking about small steps
and mankind.
In one crossing he earns enough
to buy two cows.
In Bangladesh, Mr Loteef makes
a giant leap back to his village.

© Michael Ray

The fearless ferrymen of Dhaka's Buriganga river

US astronaut Neil Armstrong dies, first man on Moon

Michael Ray  is a glass artist living in West Cork Ireland. In 2011 he won the RTE John Murray National Poetry Competition. His work has appeared in The Moth, Asylum, The Independent and Cyphers 

5 comments:

  1. I think the Buriganga is a tributary of the Styx!

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  2. Nice connection to the Neil Armstrong story. Incredible to think that after all these years since we landed men on the moon, people are still living in grinding poverty.

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  3. I'm one of those Luddites who can't help thinking there could be a bit less grinding poverty if they weren't spending a fortune messing about in space!

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  4. I like the irony of him navigating by the moon.

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  5. I like this poem's exotic feel about universal problems. And I can see the river when I read it.

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