THE OPEN ROAD

"Pilgrim"

“The romantic – that was what I wanted. I hungered for the romance of the sea, and foreign ports, and foreign smiles. I wanted to follow the prow of a ship, any ship, and sail away, perhaps to China, perhaps to Spain, perhaps to the South Sea Isles, there to do nothing all day long but lie on a surf-swept beach and fling monkeys at the coconuts.

I hungered for the romance of great mountains. From childhood I had dreamed of climbing Fujiyama and the Matterhorn, and had planned to charge Mount Olympus in order to visit the gods that dwelled there. I wanted to swim the Hellespont where Lord Byron swam, float down the Nile in a butterfly boat, make love to a pale Kashmiri maiden beside the Shalimar, dance to the castanets of Granada gypsies, commune in solitude with the moonlit Taj Mahal, hunt tigers in a Bengal jungle- try everything once. I wanted to realize my youth while I had it, and yield to temptation before increasing years and responsibilities robbed me of the courage.”

From “The Royal Road to Romance” by Richard Halliburton, 1925

I came across the Halliburton book in the library the other day. His name sounded familiar but I couldn’t place him. It turns out he was Tennessee born in 1900, educated at Princeton, and after graduation took to the road. He lived through the jazz age, through the great depression until the eve of World War II and disappeared in 1939 while sailing on a Chinese junk from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

I have always loved travel books. There has always been within me a desire to explore, to risk, to meet danger and have adventures in exotic locales. I did not have the courage to follow those dreams and chose more prosaic paths – perhaps that was for the best – but my heart still beats a little faster, my eyes shine a little brighter when I read what others have done. I wrote this poem a few years ago when I heard the gypsies calling me.

I AM THE OPEN ROAD

I am the open road

I lay down myself before you.

Walk upon my hard packed earth

To distant lands

Where old men speak

In purple tongues,

Where words are made of herbs

And ears resonate to the sound

Of tree-born drums.

 

I am the open road,

I lay down myself before you.

Let my currents carry you

To pirate isles

Where palm trees

Mark graves

And clipper ships

Trail the scent of cinnamon

Across the waves.

 

I am the open road,

I lay down myself before you.

Lean into my winds,

Soar to mile-high passes

Where saffron monks

Chant the million names

Of a million gods

While yak bells ring

And incense rises.

 

I am the open road,

I lay down myself before you.

Ride the white stallion

To the nomad’s tent

Where a silent maid

Watches stars wheel

Silently overhead

While shifting sands

Whisper.

 

I am the open road,

I lay down myself before you.

Travel down the song lines

Of my dreams.

Drum into being

The rock and tree and hill,

While I dance awake

The rabbit and the panther,

The cobra and the child.

 

I am the open road,

I lay down my self before you.

I am calling.

Come.

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