Freeway Towns (After Kenneth Slessor)

Freeway towns
with your dusty browns

and shady grass
all moving past,

with parks astride
the freeway's side

and hearts that know
and streets that glow

in summer sun
at half past one,

that tolerate
our hasty gait

while moving on
to where we're from:

you watch it all,
while freeway's call

denies the chance
to meet your glance.

The moment gone,
we part unknown.

I wish I knew
the half of you.

In Transit

…lucky to be leafless:
Deciduous reminder to let go.

(Eugene Peterson, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”)

Lost in auto-pilot, I find myself,
false turn on false turn, circling in
this airport country where lanes diverge to let
the suitcase-laden taxi-bound
find ways to cities, and ways away.

A loop, and again I am where
I more or less should be: a road.
Yet airport, out of place, lingers in memory,
and just above
the warehouse-horizon hovers
a plane, a reminder, lest
in all my circling I forget.
Trucks are bound where their cargo is bound;
my cargo’s built for no road,
only sky. And so this day,
let transit pierce the veil;
amidst all of this,
drive praise.

Northbound at dusk

Jeffrey Smart painted this dying day:
burnt orange in floating smokestack steam,
needle-lights stretching in fluorescent dream,
the sojourn of light sinking in silent sway.
Daytime paints its canopy away
and minutes pass in inches as we glean
each moment, weigh each instant gram by gram.
Apologies buy flowers; much to say,
yet time is rare. I wish that now could be
a canvas on a wall that we could share.
I cross the bridge; I mount the street of bells.
Ascend, descend; the sound within us swells,
and expectation greets the seated air.
No movement; move. I gather you to me.

image

Homecoming

Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?
(William Shakespeare)

To the untrained eye, nothing has changed:
smoke still billows from chimneys;
mornings are dark; alarms wake too early;
the mad prince still fools the diplomat with his madness,
the sane with his sanity.

To the untrained eye, all these clouds look the same
and cannot be seen for the smog.
Brakes still wail; billboards roar;
by afternoon, relax your tie –
yet it is not like it was before.
This flesh-and-blood normality
denies this Nonetheless which sits
beside us and inside and knocks
us sideways with its shock of grace.

Everything is rent in two;
these clouds are never still, and all
these forms we fill will not contain
what lies before our way.
For every indifferent sigh, repent;
as the lie falls away,
falls the Day.

All the birds of the freeway

I journey between factories and billboards and trees;
needles of light pierce the morning sky,
and in the east the vermilion city wakes.

Spanning the distance, birds fly in sequence,
sweeping sheets, kites, giant gulls across the horizon.
When I arrive I will be static, and spark at friction
from those who start their day unawares.

If I cannot have flight, O God, let me kneel;
we deny You with every passive grumble,
each scant refusal of Your song.

10 Ways to Embrace the Ring Road

Embrace it.
No other time of day can you sit still,
without compunction.
Here schedules mean nothing.
You may be late; that cannot be stopped.
Yet you can stop. You can look
at clumps of grass and broccoli gums
in wetlands and wonder how they looked
before this road was even thought.
You can watch
the faces as the windows pass
(no other time of day will you
see so many lives entwine).
Invent their stories.
Stop and know your own.
Hold last night’s mess in your hands
as you steer today’s wheel.
Consider the day.
Pluck your nose hair.
Watch birds fly back and forth in sequence
and fancy them a wind-blown sheet.
Name the clouds with metaphors
(a waterfall, a needle,
a walrus’s moustache).
Scan the forgotten gorges of your city and learn
how distances must be covered to move
to where you want to be.
Trace the sun as it chases the trees.
Learn all the textures of its light.
Watch the evening drape the sky.
Prise open this day’s grace.