The family’s new Humber was speeding
through the country along the road
to Sydney: no other car could pass us
as our father stepped on the gas
like Donald Campbell, whose life was reading
matter for the cramped back-seat load.
All of us jeered whenever Pegasus
loomed above the scarlet canvas
awnings of a garage, in the small towns
he throttled back for — the petrol
company our daring chauffeur worked for
was symbolised by a scallop.
Under the sun the grass was blistered brown,
and gum trees looked like broccoli
disposed at random in paddocks; far
from the highway a horse galloped
out of a sun shower, without taking
wing. Wide shafts and narrower tubes
of light were propped against a sky crowded
with textures — near the horizon
a monster cauliflower was making
a rainbow’s bright palette describe
a curve which landed next to a cow shed.
Mother was authority on
such matters: it was then I learned about
the crock of gold that was buried
beside the already-receding shed.
Surely we had to stop and dig
it up? None of us was old enough to doubt
the truth of our mother’s words.
But nothing was done. The gold receded,
and soon gold sun was standing
all around us. The only thing we’d gained
was disappointment. The black road
kept on vanishing under the Humber.
I thought about the ways we could
have spent it, then wondered how the rainbow
caused the gold. Ways I could number.
“Our” brand of petrol was the best because
our father said it was, and who
had any reason to think otherwise
when nothing one’s parents said could be untrue?
© Jamie Grant