The Golden Banyan Tree Tea Shop (Finding Orwell and Beefheart in Burma)


Jungle of Elephant bones, I set off on foot,
Steam rises from tea shops, tea sipped from saucers,
Chess pieces moved in impatience, ladies carrying giant cabbages on their heads,
Well thumbed weekly journals, ‘Hole-La?’
Yaza Gaha Thiri Dissaya Gaza Yaza!
The dirty work of empire at close quarters, wearing a mask that the face grows to fit,
‘So did he really shoot the elephant?’
Real life, within fiction, within the motley crew of strays,
Overrun with goats, geese and the other farmyard animals,
Erupting into a devilish roar of glee, skipping passed luminous blue lions guarding ornate pagodas,
Expressions of peoples desires, a shadowy army called the ‘brotherhood’,
Flowing like an electric current, Beatrice will take you to Rangoon,
Waving until out of sight, then more waves, of excitement,
The killer Elephant strikes fear, Shambu is running wild in Kampong Speu,
To the thigh slapping country and western hit’ Jambalaya’,
The old man taps his fingers to the music, we were on our way,
Hurtling through valleys, carpeted with lush paddy fields,
Chewing betel nut beneath large banyan trees, stripped epaulettes on my shoulders,
A slice of cake as an offering, painted strawberry red,
Statuettes of spirits, in a shoe box sized temple on branches of tree,
Pink ribbon stretched across the sky, above rose bushes in a forest of mahogany trees,
As the giant wooden wheel turns slowly, leaving rosy clouds of dust in its wake,
With spicy sweet scent surround, on the abandoned stage set,
The soundtrack is choked by static, comedy revolving around a neo-classical mansion,
Mesmerized by the screen, and the dark shapes of palm,
Spending the night here, below stars and soft murmurs,
Cheroot smoke clouds waft over sleeping bodies, in creeping mist of dawn, haggard mind stirs,
Under blueish haze of mountains, collective soul gazes,
At the soaring sun and an ocean of sky, in the shadows we squeeze, in shade we reside,
The fruits of labour, the pips and the peels,
With soft golden hues and a son of a gun, we wind ourselves slowly moving onwards, towards our last posting, in Burmese Days,
In a fictional land and an invitation for tea. Irrawaddy.

Honouring Eric Blair, the bazaar, the jail, Captain Beefheart, jagged mountain ranges, Emma Larkin and air laced with the crisp, fresh smell of fir trees.

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