Poem – Peter Bland

The 1929 Essex Six


Our first car, bought for a fiver,
from a farmer who’d dumped it decades before
under thick gorse in a corner paddock
where mushrooms sprouted on the back seat.
After days of tinkering we got it going,
double de-clutching through the gears
as we loaded up for our move to the city
with children, dustbins, booze, and poetry,
before thundering south, shedding oil and steam.

On bad backroads, mud up to the bonnet,
pelted by hail and mountain floods,
that big cab ploughed down the whole north island
before shivering to a sudden stop
outside our State-house door. After that
we could never get it going. The canvas
roof shredded in an offshore wind,
tyres turned to mush, kids smashed the windscreen,
snails browsed in herds across a mildewed floor.

We sold it off in bits … chrome headlamps,
wooden steering-wheel, asthmatic horn.
An old Greek fisherman bought the engine-block
for his crayfish boat. He was lost at sea.
I don’t suppose even that’s the end of it.
Under swaying kelp, some scenes – mostly those
full of journeys – float up from the deep,
along with the beat of that long-stroking six,
when the road was a river beneath our feet.


Peter Bland


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