Haydn Williams was a lecturer in English Studies at the University of Adelaide from 1966 to 1987 when he retired. He had previously been a teacher and lecturer in Britain, Africa and India. Apart from articles and books of literary criticism he is the author of poetry and short stories. His work has been published in India, the United State and the United Kingdom.
Speaking of Life and More Words About Life
Men Running in the Rain and Other Poems
Men Running in the Rain
Four men are running in the rain,
Running with small even strides,
Yokes bearing down on their dark
Brown backs and their back and sides
Are streaked with paint. From stark
They have run now into these nights
Lit bright by pink candles, their feet
Skimming over the street’s tortured corpses,
Past pan shops, begging rickshaws, boxes
Full of rotting fruit, they are running, running in the rain.
The pots they carry are crowned
With stuffy aromatic flowers
Garlands of dizzying scents. They are running.
Jingling and swinging in the rain for hours,
Four yoked poor men, delirious with prayers,
Shouldering fanatical burdens of flowers,
Rosaries, sweetmeats, sandalwood, lotuses, they weave
Their strange way in and out of the side streets of Calcutta,
Spearing the night’s hot anger and the rains.
Their bare feet dodge spilled leaves
Squashed earthen pots clogging the drains, through the clutter,
The filth, the blood, of the city of Calcutta,
Over pools, over the mirrored moon
And stars, on they run, running in the rain, slight
Sweating bowed-over figures in the rainy night,
Running down Chowringhee, through the dark gaudy slums
In the monsoon rain, running gaily to the beat of drums,
Running with waters of adoration
To Shiva’s shrine.
I who watch them running in the rain,
These four poor men running in the rain,
Am suddenly full of compassionate envy
For men running in the rain
Who wear their poverty so boldly
Like bursting brown stars in the rain,
Men running for Shiva. Against all our pity
They are free.
From Friendly Street No. 6
The quick trigger cowboy rent by complexes
Can only pity the long-haired badman he should shoot.
He feels impelled to worry by forgotten illusions;
In love with Mother or fixated on horses,
He cannot puzzle out his enemy’s purposes
If there are any. Lying out in the heat
Under guilt like a mosquito net
Daydreamingly recalls the elegant spurred boots
Of a perverse mistress, her lips and nude thighs
Below violet garters and risky French knickers.
Children and animals banished to the nursery
Leave vacant and nude the couch for the sheriff’s traumas
While the Marshal of Tombstone
Rides in gunless but packing a volume of Freud
To unpick the shot-up mind of El Cid.
Too late! Maddened with love for the bar-girl
The cowboy sleepwalks to his date with Death
That the gunslinger never wanted to keep,
But Death slips undetected through the honda of chance
And haunted gunman and crazy cowboy die together
Not through rivalry, hate, revenge or sport
But surprised victims of the Death Wish.
From Friendly Street No. 7
UFOs Observe the Earth
This planet has a beauty of its own
That is really strange with all its brightness
Circled by a moon, a moon that’s dead, wan.
These men and women we see seem like us,
Yet deeply flawed, so crude, illformed and humpbacked
Somehow with their funny distorted vision
Near blind as moles, deaf to the music
Of the spheres we bring on hushed wingtips –
Yet we haunt them because they are excited
By our possibility. Some hate us
Actually, some are moonstruck and starmad,
Ready to take off into bliss if they could
But can’t. We are moved by their misery
Yet touched by their yearning, this endless lust
For the unattainable. This planet earth loved
Yet hated and abused holds them tightly.
They are comforted by its cruel bonds.
This earth of theirs that is called ‘TERRA’
Is also ‘TERROR’ in their confusion of tongues.
We can’t help them, we are sent only to observe
Sadly unseen and unheard by the dumb dead mass.
From Friendly Street No. 16