Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day Trip

by Bryan Murphy

Two thousand black beers
in that tiny station bar,
barman rolling eyes
when I order it warm,
cup my hands round the bottle,
let the bitter-sweet malt
ease my vocal cords
after long lessons
then late-night winter chill.

They've spruced it into glass and light,
overlaid pisshouse stench with bleach
and estuary ozone.
Rolling stock's the same,
still leaves on time,
rocks you from river to sea
past names that send synapses
pulsing deep into the senses.

This river line from Lisbon
leads always to Cascais,
a last sweet home in Portugal,
jettisoned to touch the world.

The station there feels smaller.
Outside, a spasm of disorientation,
autopilot frozen by decades of disuse.
In this land of cartographers,
they now have public maps:
check, then plunge towards the sea.

Joy: the posh-shop street's hubris
has been punished: turned to tack,
an Indo-Italian takeaway its feeble heart today.
Still it disgorges day-trippers
into the square above the bay,
on whose tiny beach only foreigners
venture from sand to water.

We spin off into cobbled lanes
whose tiled names
infuse the ordinary with artistry.
Bougainvillea masks the enigma
of partial demolitions.
I know those names,
no longer where they lead.

Autopilot stirs, wakes, fires itself,
pulls me through tunnels of time,
sets us outside an unimposing cottage
a corner of which once served as home.

It stands silent, shut up.
No neighbours chatter.
The garage opposite, now a gallery
enjoys an extended siesta.

We head on to the big one:
a shiny modernist temple
to Paula Rego's twisted magnificent dreams.
Culture as commerce.
I leave with a hallucinatory bookmark:
"Não incomodar" - do not disturb.

The park opposite, where I laughed myself sick
on LSD, my unique trip,
when dappled sunlight filtered through,
swirling in dizzy patterns among the leaves.
The leaves are still there;
the sunlight still does.

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