Driving Home

Leslie Norris

The first bite of the engine scares
An old blackbird. He flares
Off into his laurels, comic fear
Ruffles his feathers. In first gear
I gentle the car, Fingertip
Its huge waiting idly up,
Then a touch,
Snick, into second past the curbed clutch,
Flick a glance at a bus,
Slide, so obviously without fuss
It becomes a tactfully pretentious
Act, cosily into the relevant
Traffic. In front
Is an old Alvis; nice. My hands wear
Their driving leather.
Today is the last of the working year
And winter rain expected weather.
With some panache I engage the windscreen wiper.

In third onto the dual carriage-way.
Foot down, the cool snarl unfurls my
Gritty nerves, then velvet into top
And the free straight.
We swing at the bend
On a smooth string’s end
And gobble for home, battering the rain
To the bucketing gutters
In enormous waves, like music. At once a strain,
A swell, and incredulous orchestras
Play sticky crescendos from remembered cinemas
All through the village. A rope
Of water, twined by speed,
Winds like a tune down the side
Window as I sober the brake,
Change down; I make
The curved drive
With a noise like surf.
I am home in the pale wet.

And in my room I wait,
Having turned from the window and the late
Light. Here I can see
The total uncertainty that belongs to me,
Old letters, old papers, a book
Thrown to the floor,
A confusion of effort that means no more
To me now than the common music
I brought home in the car,
The soiled detritus of a whole year’s war
Against myself, against my dying leaves.
No man can do this for me, I can pay
No man, and wearily I begin
To jostle into order overrun
Good intentions thrown away
Long ago. Shrugging with amused distate
At the shabby evidence, the waste
Of eagerness, the death of time,
I put my books back on their sightless shelves.
When I have done I will sit in the orderly dark,
Waiting for what will come to me, what is to come.