Brian Turner is a post War poet: not imperialist, very regional. This is an accurate description of Central Otago as it was: of my experience of road trips as a child (bar “it doesn’t matter” — in our family it was “are we there yet?” and “I can see the sea”. But our trips were shorter, far shorter.
The South Island is more isolated, and central does not have any moderation from the ocean. Even with sealed roads, the dust remains.
Cast your mind back to the first time you came this way,
the road windy, corrugated, dusty,
the surface mostly the colour of yellow clay, cuttings
stained with the leer of water seeping.
On the left the ever-ascending slopes,
the Old Man Range, white flecks
in blue gullies near the summit,
and your young old man wondering when
we’d ever get to Alexandra, your mum complaining
about ‘the blessed dust’, both of them
cursing the ‘wash-board surface’ and you thinking
about the number of times she told your father
that ‘it didn’t matter’ when it clearly did. And that
was the way it always was with them,
it is with you, it is, period. Until, you might say,
something happens that’s never happened before.
Like love came back and sent hate packing
never to return, and peace of mind arrived
like a dove from afar, decided to stay, and you
no longer dreamed of what might have been.