The Old Coach Road


On blackberry on fern falls the pale dust
Milled up by cattle shambling to the gate,
The weathered road’s satirical reply
Should chance and time seek to obliterate
That legend on the milking shed:
Muldoon’s Coaches – Livery and Bait.

Old Muldoon died of wheels in his head,
Rims and horseshoes muttering to clay
Of his lost high seat and feather-footed team
Racing the wind. To his angry life’s last day
He’d crack a whip at the smooth-as-silver
Highway through pasture land two miles away.

He and the old coach road were deviations
But his turn-off was far and far to seek:
The time his dapples went at a flying trot
From Dead Man’s Gully down to Firewood Creek;
The time his eyes danced with forests
To the music of bells rung in a tui’s beak.

That highway took the farm’s snowy rillets
To swell vast torrents of Waikato cream,
Back to the younger Muldoons flowed the riches
Bright with the century’s neoteric dream.
The old man’s wheel lurched into silence –
His death dried up in it like a summer stream.

The legend fades, the road will not give in:
Cream lorry, cattle, the fluttering return
Of pipits to their dust-bowls, all evoke
Wry clouds of gritty unconcern
Settling pale as rime over the verges
Where long days blacken the berry and gild the fern.

from Of Clouds and Pebbles (Paul’s Book Arcade, 1963), © Gloria Rawlinson 1963, used by permission of the Rawlinson-Edge Trust. Recording from the Waiata New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 1974

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