Auckland Road Ode
I heed the low-rider chassis of the isthmus —
its opalescent finish, its groundswell, its airquake —
through fabrics of lightweight heat haze,
through metallurgical horrors of free-floating fumes
spewed out by a glacier of cars gridlocked
in the rush hour.
There’s a fanfare of honk-your-horn
where Wellesley crosses Queen,
and rinky-dink rear indicators winking
as a traffic cop whirls his finger and points
you through to Symonds Street,
and the stuck-open wail of State Highway-going
trucks joining the on-ramp in the Gully,
a hubba-hubba drone, the harmonic convergence
of cranky car alarms all over town.
In Vulcan Lane
a pavement rhumba of pedestrians moves
round tipsy poets whose exaggerated gestures
proffer odes to the future glories
of Auckland’s light rail scheme.
Panel beaters get a spray-paint rush in Kingsland
and cough gobbets of grey from sensitised lungs.
Walk a line of angle-parked wrecks down
one side of some street in Onehunga —
spot them slewed, pancaked, puckerooed,
wraparound windscreens wrapped round zilch,
the chrome the dashboards to hell and gone.
But how drivers take the corner in Ellerslie,
how they clap on the anchors in Mount Eden,
how they hullabaloo their hellos in Ponsonby,
where rubbernecking meets the vulcanised road.
By hilltop, headland, gulch and slope,
with cool flick of the wrist,
these sidewise glancers,
how they grope their steering wheels and swoop
past the hand to mouth existence of the carless.
Hear each mating call of muffler roar
as motorised transport conquers asphalt.
The ute with bigfoot tyres whomping shop-shop,
the courtesy coach with tinted views whirring
conventioneers to speed labs or some such.
The luminous photo booth on wheels,
and the hooning beer crate on wheels.
The shredded tobacco tarpit on wheels,
and the lunar landing module on wheels.
The bald retread patterns yomping;
the rusted coathanger aerials whistling;
the rice rockets doing their blood-curdling;
the bleeping airport shuttle buckling
nearly into a slowed bread van;
the truckie who tows a gutted panel van
with unswerving importance.
Ah boomtown of no-stopping turbulence,
Auckland your wide-load geometries
strive to attain to mirrorglass pinnacles,
to mass sky-climbs of tower blocks,
to boxed-in foxy apartment units
stretching as far as the eye can see,
in every major and minor view
of Waitemata and adjacent shore,
at evening, when twinkly beams
of headlamps scan your facades
and chase spectacles of office spaces
above neon alphabets of doodads.
Your roads they lead us places,
or sometimes not —
speedo stuck on zero,
tar-seal sticking too,
vehicles backfiring then falling silent,
steamed heads nettled,
numb bodies upright
cocooned in cotton or wool or silk,
seat-belts done up inside containers
whose hubcaps and bumpers seem to spin the light
against inertia, entropy, and oncoming night;
our hearts going at a fair lick,
pedal mashed to the metal.
From Fast Talker (Auckland UP, 2006)