Then Murray came
It was the morning for
selling the car, but
when I went out to start it,
it wouldn’t go. Greg went
to get petrol on the bike. I
rang the A.A. Then Ray
arrived. I said I’m sorry, he
said don’t worry and looked at
the car and at the wheels and
in the boot and said she’s a lovely
old thing. He tapped the coil
and the fuel pump to try to
make it go. Greg came back
with petrol, but that didn’t help.
Then, because there was nothing else
to do, we went inside and had coffee
and Ray smoked and talked about
going to Outward Bound and sleeping
and losing a stone.
Then Murray came.
He drove up the hill in his yellow
A.A. car, shaking his head. Got out and said
I was sure you were having me on. Last time I was
here you said you were selling it
and the other day I saw you walking
through town and I thought ‘thank god she’s
sold that thing’. He cleaned the carburettor
and laughed. Put more petrol in, replaced a
filter. I said I wasn’t joking, there’s
someone here who wants to buy it. Murray
laughed and said sure. No, no, I said, it’s
true. Ray. See, there he is, up at the
window. Murray looked up and Greg and Ray
waved. How much is he paying for it? asked
Murray. I started to say and he stopped
me. Said no, on second thoughts, don’t tell
me. I don’t want to hear about this.
Ray came down and took over
holding up the bonnet of the car.
What’s your name? he asked Murray.
Murray, said Murray. Well I’m
Ray, this is Greg and this is
Jen. Hello Murray, we said.
And then the car started.
©Jenny Bornholdt from How We Met, Victoria University Press, 1995
Note from Lydia: I laughed aloud when I first read this poem. Selling a car which won’t start, Greg getting petrol on the bike, Ray smoking and talking about Outward Bound, it is a micronarrative of intense suburban familiarity and yet… also heroic (‘then Murray came’), touching about relationships (‘ I thought thank god she’s sold that thing’ ) and an acute register of local idiom while also suggesting the Pinteresque deeps that lie behind what is said. How much is he paying for it? asked Murray…no, on second thoughts don’t tell me’.
‘Then Murray came’ has lodged in my head. It shows me the world I live in, but freshly, deeply, newly, wittily. And at the end, after Murray has come (I’d like to know Murray) the car starts.
Lydia Wevers has recently retired as the Director of the Stout Research Centre at Victoria. She is a lifelong reader of New Zealand writing and a literary historian.
Jenny Bornholdt has published ten books of poems, the most recent of which is Selected Poems. Her collection The Rocky Shore was a made up of six long poems and won the Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 2009.
She is the co-editor of My Heart Goes Swimming: New Zealand Love Poems and the Oxford Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English.
Jenny’s poems have appeared on ceramics, on a house, on paintings, in the foyer of a building and in letterpress books alongside drawings and photographs. She has also written two children’s books.