Reflectors: Drive 6

Properties that won’t sell
become havens for kangaroos—large roos,
real boomers rarely seen these days—
that with enough moonlight will leap
in the headlights, have you swerve
in the manner of a decade ago,
trucks accelerating to test out
their roo bars, look for a sympathiser
in the citizen band radio, working
the confederate squelch out of static
as on the Great Eastern Highway
with miles of undulating paddocks
and struggling patches of bush
another truckie picks up, the air
relatively clear and traffic low
so late at night, or rather
in the early hours of the morning,
picks up and replies: “You’re
a real jerk...” but the static
pops words so its sounds like praise
and the admonished roo-killer
sails his rig over moon-coated
asphalt full of pride, of status
amongst his peers, his delusions
driving the lust for another roo,
another boomer, to bring down as gore,
to join the John Waters-like burlesque
of flesh and skin flapping from the roo bar,
radiator grille, not knowing that his truck
is about to be recalled because of faulty
hydraulics—the whole year’s output
of that model falling prey to a weakness
in a specific part at best, in design
more likely. The smell of the paddocks
cannot be filtered by air-conditioning:
UREA, forty-six percent nitrogen...
high-beam violence on a corner
THAT corner, the arc that jags
and cuts into itself near Wambyn.
The rise, sudden descent embellishing
enhancing excrescent topped-up
bloated brimming supplemented
forced against the grain of gravel,
the insensitive or malicious who stab you
straight in the eyes, twist barbs
of gaze back into the black light trap
of sight, the two-way mirrors,
brain-scanned moon sliced
to a picture, as blind blinded blinding
you mnemonically follow the road,
headmap that might have been dormant
for months, even longer. Those accidents
at night without explanation—death’s dazzlers,
road-edge spliced by divides, projected mallee
trees thick and heavy and making you swerve
into a fencepost, over a ledge. Or
the wild overtakers—rapid passers-by—
who cut in like a paper slice
and leave the family-wagon sailing
sailing sailing terror cognizant,
sailing into concrete retainer wall,
granite shoulder, hillside, tailgaters
caught in the slipstream. Delusion. Phantasm.
No metaphors to be made though it’s
all connected as death is all’s metonym.
That lover’s leap we pass quickly—
where perching allows Mediterranean delusions
on the scarp, the place where the murderer
of blacks had the tables—his tables
of stats, land accrual, harvests, sheep guts,
hogget, lambs, hay stooks—maybe—
maybe turned as tables in a dining room
that bitterly resented campfires, dances,
songs with words that had neither
beginning or end, that reached
through white skin sideways,
as if it wasn’t there, straight to the heart
which felt it all but didn’t know
what to do with it but kick back
angrily, like rifle shots, jaws or roo dogs.
Premeditation was built into the culture
of “settlement.” He was chased
and leapt to his death to escape,
which he did, connected to the song
without beginning, without end.
Shit! I didn’t dip my lights,
I hope it didn’t dazzle them too much...
I know what it’s like. Do you think
I should go back to check? Having rounded
the bend I can’t see anything in my mirrors.
No, you’re probably right, I’ve got
to work on this paranoia, not let
it get the better of me. Actually,
I was distracted by the irony
of Malcolm Lowry’s poem “Happiness.”
“Tree with branches rooted in air...”
In daylight you can clearly see where the runoff
has washed the soil away from roots
of York gums and mallees—the roots
make confused and awkward extensions
to the trunks, or simply lash out
at crisp deposits of salt when it’s dry.
That’s now, we’re passing the exact spot:
old hippy commune with heaps
of shattered asbestos, fibres
catching in she-oak brushes,
a generator on the brink of seizure.
So I was thinking ahead of myself
when that car sailed head-on
into my high beam, one map
overlaid another and I made an error
of judgement. A mistake. Or maybe
my consciousness being so removed
from the here and now—the there and then—
that another set of laws were governing
my mood, a magic realism
not measurable by the sort
of blood tests or blow bags
they have in their arsenal. Unsighted,
not even lit up by the sharpest
of spotlights. We pass the shed
where that guy stuck his dick
through the abrasive disk of a grinding paper,
calling it a frilled-necked lizard—but that
might have happened somewhere else,
an old trick. A utility varies its speed
by twenty or thirty, still twenty
or thirty below the speed limit
when peaking—overtaking
you find it accelerates to the speed limit
and beyond, blocking your return,
double white lines and a bend
leaving you nowhere to go,
a head-on brewing as headlights
lack definition. Just escaping.
The utility drops back to its old patterns
and pins in the mirror, shedding
anthropomorphics... Quarry trucks
keep on dragging on, carting
marginal land and a rhetoric
that displaces imagery of accidents.