Port Alfred is a Quiet Place

Out of nowhere 

The other night

A random memory hit me

Of when I was five or six

We only have a few memories of those times

When we were small

Don’t we?

A few isolated oases 

In the deserts of the past

In this one I was in Port Alfred

A small boy

At my aunt’s house on holiday

A small seaside town

And there I was

Sitting on the steps of the veranda

At about 9pm at night

The adults all inside, I was all alone

Looking out across at the lights of the houses and street poles

It was December and it was hot

But quiet 

So quiet, and I liked that

There was something about it all

I suddenly had a thought 

I needed to write something about this

I ran in to grab a pad and pen

The empty page suddenly seemed heavy in my hand

But I looked out again at the night and the feeling remained

In the distance I could make out the lights of the petrol station

At the point where the main road reached the town

I could faintly hear the distant groan of a truck

Few things more lonely 

Than the sound of a truck on the highway at night

I had to write something

I felt compelled

Eventually I wrote the line 

“Port Alfred is a quiet place”

I sat there for a long time after that

Trying to think of how to continue

But nothing came

I had this feeling swelling inside me in that instant

About this quiet moment in this quiet town at night

But I didn’t have the words or skill to put it down on paper

That was the only line I wrote

The paper was discarded and forgotten

Life went on

I wonder now how I might have completed that poem

Nowadays in my older age I can write lines like second nature

Usually

But sometimes I still sit outside after dark

And take in the sounds of night

Lights in the distance

Perhaps the gentle sound of swaying branches

A few more sounds now, here, than in Port Alfred 30 years ago

But still

Life has a way of letting life get in the way of everything important

But that deep rooted part of ourselves persists

At least it should 

We just have to find it

Sometimes it’s at 3:25am thinking back 

About how Port Alfred is a quiet place

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