THE NORTH COAST BY ROBERT GRAY

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Next thing, I wake-up in a swaying bunk

as if on board a clipper

clambering at sea,

and it’s the train that booms and cracks,

it tears the wind apart.

The man’s gone

who had the bunk below me. I swing out,

close his bed and rattle up the sash—

there’s sunlight rotating

off the drab carpet. And the water sways

solidly in its silver bowl, so cold

it joins through my hand.

I see, where I’m bowed,

one of those bright crockery days

from so much I recall.

The train’s shadow, like a bird’s,

flees on the blue and silver paddocks,

over fences that look split from stone,

and banks of fern,

a red bank, full of roots,

over dark creeks, where logs are fallen,

and blackened tree trunks.

Down these slopes move,

as a nude descends a staircase,

slender white eucalypts;

and now the country bursts open on the sea—

across a calico beach unfurled,

strewn with flakes of light

that make the compartment whirl.

Shuttering shadows. I rise into the mirror

rested. I’ll leave my hair

ruffled a bit, stow the book and wash-bag

and city clothes. Everything done, press the latches

into the straining case

that for twelve months have been standing out

of a morning, above the wardrobe

in a furnished room.

ROBERT GRAY

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