Ras Tanura Terminal

for Gary Snyder

Slender peninsula of sand

hangs like a glottal stop

in the mouth of the Gulf

where a seafaring Japhy

Ryder once packed bearings

in line to take on bunker.

Twin pipes form a zig-zag

tight rope toward tankers

waiting in a tepid bath of

sea water trapped under a

cloudless sky thick with humidity

to fill their holds with sticky sludge

from the nearby refinery.


Id often ride out

on my ersatz mountain bike

trunks hidden under

long-sleeved tee shirt and

Dockers, cut off at the knee to beat

the heat and the religious police,

ducking through hedges

occasionally caught in

fishing line bird snares

left by Filipino vagrants

looking for nothing

more than a little protein

in their diets.


Knapsack packed with

snorkeling gear, Id seek

out a deserted spot

on an abandoned beach

once mined for sand

to run away from,

jog along the strand

to reefs of tar-laden

rock and marvel at

the black marble rainbows left there

by spills never reported because

who cries over oil spilt in a gulf

that nobody ever visits?


You could actually make out

a fish or two in the sandy muck

among the seaweed streamers,

jellyfish, rocks and dead coral.

Never saw shark or a barracuda

though a Scot who used to work

suspended in a harness dangling

paint cans and brushes

on the platforms farther out

toward the Sea Island said hed

often spot them fifty feet below

circling like inverted buzzards

anticipating slips.


Contractors and ARAMCO families

alike inhabit this artificially crude

international culture sequestered

in compounds where even

the water is manufactured,

where visions from the dunes

meet the artifacts of sidestepping

the industrial revolution

in air conditioned offices

with an undercurrent of spite

for whatever it is you do behind

closed doors is your business as

long as you dont attract attention.


Out to sea the thickly painted container

ships crawl out of this dead end gulf

toward the pirate-infested waters beyond

deserted but for their skeleton crews

resting below the shimmering heat

while on shore prerecorded prayer calls

stretch between minarets

over the tangle of hastily erected

power lines and illegal satellite dishes

of our humble encampment all

watched over by those hidden cameras

of benign neglect so closely connected to

the thirsty world beyond our reach.


2015 Jim Ramsay, all rights reserved.