Turns of tar and stone
twisting from the tyre’s grip –
my roads wind over
what has come and what will.
The wheel turned and we pulled over: saw smoke
from the bench seats of the Zephyr
as it huffed and coughed over Pirongia.
No breeze, that winding road
from the river valley where Dad netted whitebait
while we sheltered under the rowboat propped on one oar.
Not raining, though, the day the smoke spread like an algae bloom ahead of us
three corners away, then two, then one.
Probably a burn-off, Dad said, but
we found a car. And a woman,
her hands blackened birds trying to fly.
Nothing else but the bushed hill falling beside us.
Just her, her dead car and Dad
bent over, hands on knees, retching,
then back on the road, us kids straining to hear
as he cleared his throat
and told Mum about the little boy inside
who, until the flames took him
might have pressed against the side window
like my son used to, watching
as I rubbed my daughter’s back, held her hair away
while she spattered her last meal on the grassy gravel verge,
with sun on our necks, or rain, or once,
crossing the Kawekas in April, snow
anchored in slight drifts where we stood, but
on the road, rising like the ghost of fire.