Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"As Country Was Slow," Les Murray, from Taller When Prone

As Country Was Slow

for Peter

Our new motorway
is a cross-country fort
and we reinforcements
speed between earthworks
water-sumps and counterscarps,
breaking out on wide glimpses,flying the overpasses—

Little paper lanterns
march up and down dirt,
wrapped round three chopsticks
plastic shrub-guards grow bushes
to screen the real bush,
to hide old towns
behind sound-walls and green—

Wildlife crossings underneath
the superglued pavement
are jeep size; beasts must see
nature restart beyond.
The roads are our nature
shining beyond delay,
fretting to race on—

Any check in high speed
can bleed into gravel
and hang pastel wreaths
over roadside crosses.
Have you had your scare yet?—
It made you a driver
not an ever-young name.

We're one Ireland, plus
at least six Great Britains
welded around Mars
and cross-linked by cars—
Benzene, diesel, autobahn:
they're a German creation,
these private world-splicers.

The uncle who farmed our place
was an Arab of his day
growing fuel for the horses
who hauled the roads then.
1914 ended that. Will I
see fuel crops come again?
I'll ride a slow vehicle

before cars are slow
as country was slow.

"As Country Was Slow" is from Les Murray's new book of poems Taller When Prone, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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