Robert Gray

North Coast Town

Out beside the highway, first thing in the morning,
nothing much in my pockets but sand
from the beach. A Shell station (with their ‘Mens’ locked),
a closed hamburger stand.

I washed at a tap down beside the changing sheds,
stepping about on mud. Through the wall
smell of the vandals’ lavatory,
and an automatic chill flushing in the urinal.

Eat a floury apple, and stand about. At this kerb
sand crawls by, and palm fronds here
scrape dryly. Car after car now—it’s like a boxer
warming-up with the heavy bag, spitting air.

A car slows and I chase it. Two hoods
going shooting. Tattoos and greasy fifties pompadour.
Rev in High Street, drop their first can.
Plastic pennants on the distilled morning, everywhere;

a dog trotting, and someone hoses down a pavement;
our image flaps in shop fronts; smoking on
past the pink ‘Tropicana’ motel (stucco with sea shells);
the RSL, like a fancy-dress pharoah; the ‘Odeon’,

a warehouse picture show. We pass
bulldozed acres; the place is becoming chrome,
tile-facing and plate-glass, they’re making California;
pass an Abo, not attempting to hitch, outside town.