Dead Men Walking

DEAD MEN WALKING

Dead men walking
Diamonds in their eyes
A crouching skeleton
An unmarked grave
Long forgotten men
A rattle of bones
Dying in the desert
For a pocket of stones

Dead men walking
Diamonds in their eyes
Dredging the backwash
Of an empty dream
Brave men and fools
A rattle of bones
A heavy price to pay
For a pocket of stones

Grinning skulls of dead men
Diamonds in their eyes
White skulls staring
At the sky

Dead men walking
Between the desert and the sea
A human stutter
In an unforgiving land
Empty footprints
Taken by the wind
A rattle of bones
On the sand

Grinning skulls of dead men
Diamonds in their eyes
White skulls staring
At the sky

DEAD MEN WALKING
The belief that untold wealth in the form of diamonds lies in the Skeleton Coast, and there for the taking, has drawn many a legal and illegal diamond prospector to a slow and thirsty death. The many unmarked graves and skeletons of men testify to this. Those who obtained permission soon found that the logistics of operating a mining venture in such a hostile environment made the work too costly and they abandoned their mines.
Maybe it is because I have picked up so many bones and skulls of birds and seals and small buck in my beachcombing rambles along West Coast that I have such a clear image of these bleaching skulls with diamonds in their deep eye sockets – staring at the sky.

  • Barbara Fairhead

The Man Who Spoke to Whales

THE MAN WHO SPOKE TO WHALES

They tell of a man who spoke to whales
In love with the silence of a desert land
Stood on the shore in the mist and wind
With the whales’ lament in his mind
Not a human voice for miles around
Only the ocean and the wind
And the silences within his heart
And the hungers in his mind

He was a big man, a big man
So big he’d stop the wind
He played the loneliest bass note
You ever did find
His hair was long and wild
Wild like a storm
And the sound of a whale
Was tattooed on his arm

He was a man of the West Coast
The cold current was in his eye
And all the sounds of wind and whales
And the seabirds drifting cry
He was a man made for haunting
His shadow was salt and wild
But the sound of the bass note
It was undefiled

He was a big man, a big man …

They say the West Coast can make you crazy
It just climbs into your mind
Something in the salt-burned light
Makes contentment hard to find
It makes a man take comfort
In the lonely art of crying
Makes him want to know what lies
The other side of dying

He was a big man, a big man …

They tell of a man who spoke to whales
In love with the silence of a desert land

THE MAN WHO SPOKE TO WHALES
People who enjoy the harsh climate, landscape and character of the West Coast tend to be eccentric. This is a purely fictional character but you might well meet him playing his double bass in some smoky West Coast pub and living a solitary life in a small white-washed cottage – almost anywhere along the coast.
I have an image in my mind of this big man with his wild hair streaming out in the wind, bowing whale calls on his double bass at the shore line, the waves crashing down: literally ‘calling up’ the whales.
[Written for BRYDON BOLTON and the strange and wonderful voices of his double bass.]
- Barbara Fairhead


Goats and Thorn Trees

GOATS AND THORN-TREES

There’s a river beneath the river
Sings a hidden song
And the white goats eat the thorn trees
All day long

Red sand, blue sky
Sing a desert song
And the white goats eat the thorn trees
All day long

Where does the wind go?
Where does the wind belong?
And the white goats eat the thorn trees
All day long

There’s a naked boy weaves a hat
Sings a goatherd song
And the white goats eat the thorn trees
All day long

There’s a river beneath the river
Sings a hidden song
And the white goats eat the thorn trees
All day long

All day long …

Where does the wind go?
Where does the wind belong?
And the white goats eat the thorn trees all day long

GOATS AND THORN TREES
On my second visit to the Skeleton Coast we visited a small Himba Ozonganda (homestead) built solely of dry sticks and mud. I seem to remember only women and children. Time and life appear to be enviably slow but in fact the Himba people live close to the edge of survival. There is a strict order nevertheless as to where the chief’s wives and the goats are allowed. A line drawn in the red desert sand about twenty meters from the entrance to the chief’s hut marked a boundary. This area is sacrosanct. No one steps over this line. The Holy fire is kept burning, watched by one of the elders who communicates with the Ancestors. A small naked boy stared at us curiously. I imagined him herding the goats.

  • Barbara Fairhead

Cape Frio Seals

CAPE FRIO SEALS

No mercy in the wind
Sea fog and the hush of waves
Desert behind me, vast and silent
Skeletons of memory and the Cape Frio seals

I’m broken to the bone by this desolation
I’m broken to the bone by the beauty of this land

An empty land in a shroud of mist
Skeletons of ships and whales
Untamed water and the sound of waves
And the sudden presence of the Cape Frio seals

I’m broken to the bone by this desolation
I’m broken to the bone by the beauty of this land

I’m broken to the bone by this desolation
I’m broken to the bone by the beauty of this land

I’m broken to the bone by this desolation
I’m broken to the bone by the beauty of this land

I’m broken to the bone
I’m broken to the bone
I’m broken to the bone by the beauty of this land

CAPE FRIO SEALS
We drove along the cold, foggy coast-line. Nothing but fog and sea. Miles and miles of nothing but the muffled sound of a pounding sea and the fog like a blanket making visibility almost nil.
And then, quite suddenly a dark blur: the Cape Frio Seals.

  • Barbara Fairhead

The Crying of the Gulls

THE CRYING OF THE GULLS

This desolation
Fills a longing inside of me
This narrow edge of nothing
This wild sea

Crashing of the waves
Crying of the gulls
This naked wind
Inside my skull … inside my skull

Beauty and death
Inside my skull
Crashing of the waves
Crying of the gulls … crying of the gulls

Beauty and death
Inside my skull
Crashing of the waves
Crying
Crying

THE CRYING OF THE GULLS
We rode on the roof of the landrover, huddled up in oilskins for the cold and wet, along the seemingly endless stretch of narrow wet sand between desert and sea. The coastal fog comes as a surprise after hours of dry, burning heat. The Skeleton Coast has mile upon mile of empty, desolate coastline. The wind is fierce. There is often little else to hear beyond the sound of the sea and the crying of the gulls. It is not a place for people who don’t do wild and empty.

  • Barbara Fairhead

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