James Fountain

Work Horses

Sparrows cant, chirrup along the rooftops,

the morning moans, jolted back from night,

forcibly the world's machine moves,

cogs climb into cars, engines groan into action,

as regimented life kickstarts itself,

wheels ignited, pistons firing, all in unison.

In the commotion, tempers flare, housed in unstable

fortresses, where cars career toward their goals

hap-hazardly, as humans hurtle to work,

aiming to avoid lateness, the angry manager,

the morose head of department, afeared

of losing their treasured occupations and incomes.

And happily installed in their batteries finally,

coffee is consumed rapidly to cement wakefulness,

though the irony is that the brown hot liquid

irritates the nerves and causes more tension,

office terrorism and email wars, hatred

for life itself, for the source of this creation.


As the rain cascades, skidding through

making the sky molten, a seething grey,

the mind awash with thoughts, flooded

in the midst of futurity, three figures

tramp the city streets.

The day's work done, cars glide boat-like

along the rain-soaked road, the fizz of tyres

sounds as the work-stained faces of the masses

pass hurriedly along Oxford Street, umbrellas

like crosiers, leading them forward,

bags strapped over shoulders.

The trio's path leads them through London,

from one rain-soaked alleyway to the next

in search of shelter as the pavement glitters

tantalisingly, like diamonds, fool's gold,

shaking off the gnawing tiredness accumulated.

An hour later, in a shelter, a polystyrene cup of minestrone,

some bread, the stars twinkling overhead,

these three drowse wearily, conversation kept

to a minimum, the moon lurks like a giant eye,

the clouds dispersed, though the damp remains.

James Fountain © 2011

Al Khobar at Night

Mechanical monsters hog the roads,

untamed and mismanaged, amid unfinished

buildings and desert expanses, in fifty

degree heat, among the natural desert lines

and undulations, a new empire is building.

In imitation of the west, these lines of men and women

stand ready with trucks and construction materials,

steel and glass structures, cables and pylons,

as the oil industry's centre this nation senses

potential, an attitude in response to disapproval,

an uprising against discontent at this notion

that Saudi is desert, and thus uninhabitable

man's mission to overcome the impossible vividly evident.

In the warm hair-dryer breeze of evening

I secretly steal internet outside my bosses' apartment,

Islamic prayers are on loudspeaker from the cenotaph,

fill the dark dusty air reverberating with the 'God's will' prophecy,

as the streetlights of the desert

reveal its motionlessness, and in the eerie silence

which follows, the city seems preoccupied

by it's own spirituality, lost in the sense of self

and place in this universe, the unifying

force of religion binding its occupants in.

In the tranquil zone of night, I tread to bed

aware of the silence and stillness of desert

windless and motionless, the sense of emptiness,

a space for the soul, as ambition itself

quietly begins to stir.

James Fountain © 2011