Robert Stratford

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A week on the Coast

There’s a big white Anzac memorial
’crossroads from a mossy
bark-chip playground in Reefton.

It’s the whitest thing on the Coast –
and here a girl with thick and miniskirt legs,
with two kids of her own already, told

me, ‘my dog loves wekas,
he brings them to me in the morning,
six or seven at a time.’

We smiled and drove on –
the sky as blue as Rosa’s eyes – over
the tarsealed roads of her great grandfathers.

We passed old men flattening rail
crossings for campervans and dairy tankers,
big black piles of waiting coal

and the old road to Sully’s Waiuta gold.
Further south, came George Green’s
birth at Stillwater, 1875.

I wondered who he might have
kissed or punched, now buried in the cemetery –
not long enough to last.

The lake at Moana had weeded up
in a dirty decade, and down Thomas Brunner
Drive a thousand new house lots

had been broken in for wealthy-types from
Canterbury. In another ten years they’d
be watching Pop take that big brown trout,

they’d see us swing out across the lake –
on a rope held by that old, old rimu tree –
we’d all be blocking the view.

Coming home, it rained big
at Blackball. They were just holding
on, in an overgrown rusty backyard,

rotting purple weatherboards
by a river. A different
story up the muddy Grey Valley as new

house followed shiny milking shed –
every one a cut silver underpass underneath
the highway. There were plenty of

scowls on quad bikes and shit over
the road. We waved anyway – maybe happy, jealous or
depressed that somebody on the Coast was

making themselves rich.

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