When the car stops we are beginning already to become road.
A little taken apart and buried, the way birds, leaves
become road. Become road beneath
the burying of cars. All become driven over,
all become under. Even weather is taken
a little apart and buried. That we have been hit tonight
is relief; we no longer need to wonder when. Pain becomes
a story we will tell you years from now.
Sound becomes the dream you’ll nurse us from.
For now we are a passenger belted in
to the happening, looking back
at our tame furred moon. On our way home
the night had been too pleasant: rows and rows
of blue glass jars like the BFG’s jars
of dreams: the night was too pleasant
for what we had done. As we cycled uphill
the person we once were was cycling downhill
and each exhalation pushed us further apart.
Before we got hit we saw the shadows of trees
become road. Then the trees. A woman walking
a dachshund through the trees become road.
We saw the dog’s eyes glinting in the road.
The shine of his leash, caught in the road.
We heard voices in the trees become road, and the sound
of someone’s phone ringing in the trees become road.
As traffic clears, the road softens and takes us
deep in its arms, which though hard, accommodate
everyone. Early morning, as the road begins
its upward surge we hear footsteps nearing
from somewhere inside the road, as if
we have been recognised.
© Ashleigh Young
Note from Paula: This was one of the poems that Ashleigh read out at the Auckland Writers Festival in the session for the Sarah Broom Poetry Award. Ashleigh was a finalist in the award along with Alice Miller (I was her stand in) and Diana Bridge (winner). This poem really struck a chord with me, clung to me like a poetry limpet as I left the room. Curiously, as I listened, it was a little hallucinogenic — time slowed down, the world stretched out to a state of dissolve and all that mattered was the elongated moment of the poem. Everything inside the poem seemed bright, shining, crystal clear yet simultaneously unreal, mysterious, out of reach. Disconcerting. Strange and estranging. The words so perfectly catching the momentum of anecdote yet lilting sideways, looping back like a Zen master as everything becomes road and time laps back upon itself (‘As we cycled uphill/ the person we once were were was cycling downhill’). Really, that state I had to snap out of as I sat on stage in front of the packed audience is the state embedded in the poem — when catastrophe strikes. The world stretches like chewing gum to become so real it is unreal. This is what poetry can do; it can take those unfathomable, unspeakable moments and cast them within a poetic frame that recasts you. You get to see and feel and shift a bit. Thank you Asheigh Young, thank you.
Sarah Broom Poetry Award judge’s comments (Vona Groarke) on Ashleigh here.