Poems from the Van: James Hart
by James Hart
it seems as though a reel of film
is stuck on loop
outside your passenger window.
the scenery’s on repeat:
bushland, farmland, bushland.
there are fields demarcated by
a grid of low, rickety wooden fences
from behind which the cows
peer mournfully as you pass.
you spy the odd servo, adjoined
by a roadside restaurant and nearby
a series of nondescript homes.
it’s pleasant enough, but listless.
over this rise and the next
and the one after that
there’s more of the same -
only the mountains grow closer
the weather varies
and the signposts change their names.
yet the Turnoff draws you on:
that sublime place where green hillsides and cliffs
preside over crystal tunnels
and lazy pointbreaks.
and the small-town vibe of yesteryear
hides well-known secrets
down back roads and sandy tracks.
and in the afternoon
with paddle-weary arms
the clink of schooner glasses
the gentle clack of billiard balls
and friendly laughter in a faraway pub.
you can see it already.
your car eats up the kilometres.
the odometer grows fat with distance.
and the Turnoff draws you on.
by James Hart
There’s a certain type of magic
About those winter days
When the offshore winds are blowing
Yet the crowds all keep away.
You pull up at your local beach
To be greeted by a pleasant view
The parking lot is vacant—
There’s no one there but you.
The lookout yields a similar sight
Of dunes all neat and kempt
Of lonely turquoise water, waves
And a blue sky overhead.
Like a shot of coffee
The sight enlivens you --
But you have to ask the question
‘Where’s the ordinary crew?’
Could it be the wintry chill
That’s crept into the day?
Or the banshee breeze a-howling
That keeps the crowd at bay?
Could it be something more sinister
Something lurking out the back?
Could it be that grey finned Thing
That’s said to bring bad luck?
Stop thinking! instinct warns you
Never question for too long—
It’s only every now and then
These chances come along.
You race back to your car
And pull your thickest rubber up
You check the car door’s locked
And with board underarm you run—
Up the sandy track you sprint
Then down the wooden stairs
To plunge into the shock and cold
Of this blue wonderland
You scrawl your white graffiti
Across the long blue walls
Your wake’s a long white signature:
Claiming each wave here as yours!
Yet you know that in a moment,
Everything could change
The news could get out
Or the trade winds interchange.
Storm clouds could roll in
And rob the sunlight from your day
Bringing with it that dreaded southerly
That blows magic away.
So you catch as many as you can
While conditions hold
You make your last your second last
Until the day grows old.
And only when the sun’s gone down
And warmth has fled the day
And when the light has grown too dim
That you call it a day.
Now in the frigid semi-dark
You trot back to your car
And fumble numbly with the lock
Toes wincing on the tar.
When you get it open
You towel off your frozen face
You scrub dry your nose, your lips,
Your hair, with the greatest haste.
Headlights fall into the parking lot
As you peel your wetsuit down
He pulls up next to where you stand
And asks, ‘How’s it out there now?’
'Not too bad,' you shrug.
'Just a little bit of fun.'
But he sees the secret in your grin
And a lesson for everyone:
When the winter wind
Is fresh as minted breath
And there's still light enough to see
Out to the darkling west --
When the parking lot is empty
And the sky's an eggshell blue
Brave the cold and check the surf
Winter may reward you if you do.