Lord Owen lay in far Cathay
Upon a spread of faded red
With open eyes that didn’t see
The smoke-clad snakes of ebony
That coiled above his bed,
For he was farther than Cathay.
He had erewhile left England’s isle
And crossed the wave like those who crave
To seek elsewhere what might console
A spirit that is nowhere whole;
For naught but self-sought grave
Awaited him upon his isle.
He’d roamed Iran and Pakistan
And learned the air of paynim prayer;
Bought houris in Hafizabad,
Then entered Mecca Moslem-clad
But found no more God there
Than in the plains of Pakistan.
He’d sailed the Sea of Galilee
And mind-distraught had riding sought
Jerusalem’s thrice-holy land
Thrice-bloodied by faith’s restless brand,
But there perceived he naught
Of Him who preached in Galilee.
Then he had found while Eastward-bound
The flaming flower of soothing power
Whose fruit, as with a welcome cloak,
Had wrapped his heart in scented smoke;
And many a vagrant hour
He’d walked the East-lands poppy-bound.
His final stay had been Cathay.
Now, as his bane relieved the pain,
He whispered with a poppy-smile
He’d never see his native isle
Again but would remain
Lost in the smoke of far Cathay.
© 2018 Sarah van der Pas
Public Domain Image