drove to the city and back
six hours each way
returning the art student
to the university she evacuated
for fire four weeks ago –
some buildings still charred stone exterior,
roadside trees holding helpless charcoal hands to the sky
on the slopes of the mountain that runs black seams
up into the high gorges
where nothing but eagle and rock hyrax nest.
i slept the night on a riverbank
deep within its leafy suburban heart,
the treeline hiding a seething multitude of sins
but all i could see from my window
was the mountain peak
fading into the crescent moon sky.
i slept dreamless in that place
the endless drone of city and aircon
and push of river at its concrete banks
speaking a voiceless dirge to the night.
and slow the day came
warming leaves fallen
damp on the path.
we shared a makeshift breakfast
of the previous day’s travel food
fresh season naartjies
and cream cheese from home
on the old stone steps of the university
near the room where she stays.
pied crows drawing slow circles overhead
threading red roofs and stone buildings
to blue sky and burned trees.
the day stretched ahead
full with the sadness of parting.
this is the city that bore me
raised me through its seasons and shadows,
though truth be told it is another world to me now
bigger brighter more
its shacks and shanty towns bigger and bigger
strung spider web with electric cables overhead
its relentless gated villas and estates and malls
marching off to other mountains
swallowing kilometres and kilometres
in its suburban daydream.
its five lane highways their own special purgatory.
an hour away i climbed those distant mountains
looking back at the city
like a jeweled illusion in morning light –
endless suburbs bathed in soft mist and factory belch,
the bays and small harbours postcard blue
under the flawless sky.
steep driving down the other side
the road unravels horizon to horizon
through hills and crop-lands
playing pastoral painting –
dams and ponds brim full of first rain
reflecting the cloud skud sky
(and perhaps and maybe
as the fields speed past
and for a moment,
like in summer
when cupped hands to the surface
you look through the reflection
to the world of waterweed beneath,
the fawn stands green clearing
on the edge where the the old tree
reaches over the stone pile
and something twangs
in the place where knowing lives
and a doorway swings
open and shut
and the road draws me
on and on)
and all the while
the distance between
until my heart pulled taut
is played like a drum –
a four beat repeat
like a calling
like an approaching
and finally end of day
rounding the pass that opens rockface
to stretch of ocean and estuary and forest
and all the voices that speak me
i retrieve the skin
i left at the shore.
For Eathweal’s weekly challenge: Voyage to the Otherworld