Friday Poem – The Final Lap

Wellingtonian Tim Jones drives south through the Wairarapa – and writes an evocative poem.

The Wairarapa strings moments on the tracks of afternoon,
accelerations, plains spreading southwards from Pūkaha,
where a solitary ferret stalks the wind.

This is the journey warned against by roadside signs,
long straights developing their own momentum,
desire for home outweighing caution,

eyelids drooping as the land’s horizons widen –
and so a café in this stumbling afternoon: filo, coffee,
Wi-Fi, staff already wiping tables,

putting up chairs, brief hiatus
between the lunchtime and the evening trades. No need
to keep them waiting: rise, say thanks, and pay. Depart.

Maungaraki Range still sunlit to the east, cloud
crowning the Rimutakas, sun falling westward, late glory
shining through the final remnants of the rain.

To Featherston in dusk and wind, southerly
skittering autumn into winter. And then the long ascent –
impatient local drivers, knowing the route better,

waiting their turns to pass. This is the road
of swooping turns and sudden rockfalls, expensive maintenance,
taxpayers’ determined tribute to the primacy of the car

as the train slips snugly beneath. I reach the top. Sun
blasts my eyes for a moment, then departs, road
switchbacking into evening, Te Marua Lakes

folding into darkness, Hutt streetlights heralding motorway,
Mt Vic, a tired return, a long unpacking. This miniature city,
snuggled deep in its basket of hills.

From Tim Jones’s latest poetry collection New Sea Land (Mākaro Press, 2016)

Image credit: Michal Vitásek

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