It was very warm in Sydney today – almost a February day – of high humidity and temperature. A blast of hot air from the north-west as I walked back to my car, reminded me of summers as a child. Following is a poem of the summer journeys we would take as a family. Obvious is the story of the travels themselves, but in the looking back, associations are made in memories of the years in between which, like life itself, weaves persistently through memory, revealing new shoots from old roots…..
The Road Up North
Before the freeway’s mindless blur
It was mile after mile of two-lane
Black bitumen – fourteen hours of vinyl
Seats sticking to the back of your legs
In the sweltering, short-straw
Confines in the front
Between Mum and Dad.
The highway mile markers were
A watched pot counting down
To Taree, Kempsey, Coffs, Ballina
Then the border and, like a promise
That never pays,
The interminable hours through
The Gold Coast and on
To Auntie Myrtle’s place in Brisbane.
(There’ve been a few such promises, like
The loved-one who trampled trust
One too many times but asked once more;
Once more proved to be higher pain.)
Once or twice we’d go the inland route
But pre air-con and with all
The windows down, it was a day
In the tumble dryer.
Joy brought a cold drink
And a toilet break, the car slewing
Off the road, scything through
The loose gravel like an icebreaker
Then up onto the silent concrete
Pad of the servo.
When the engine turned off, your
Mind went searching for sound
To find the hum-roar-hum
Of cars passing on the highway.
(Sometimes, silence is the most faithful
Friend, whose presence requires nothing,
Whose love, though forceless, yields
Unaccusing rest and constancy.)
We all stared, like it was our first
Waking until, slowly, memory
Stirred, the girls shuffled
To the toilet, Dad popped the bonnet
And the boys slipped through
The plastic-strip curtain to hunt
For simple pleasures.