Eternity is the traffic lights at Huntly –
before they change from red to green
I am lost in the enchantment of an ancient entertainment.
A wraith-like old wooden two-storey hotel
a war memorial hall with a padlocked front door
the sour taste on my tongue of a dust and diesel railway station
miners’ cottages pale as mushrooms in the mist
a seesaw in the playground of a primary school
like scales that tilt toward injustice –
all become fantastical and floating
like some surreal craft now cut adrift by phantom boatmen.
Tilted on the river’s broad traverse
the topsy-turvy of its history
down a surface cross threaded and riddled with mysteries
wide from its flashing underbelly
its streetlights like a gorse bloom’s yellow carnival
through coal black waters voyaging this corridor of stars.
Do I merely chance to catch a glimpse of Mum and Dad
after a day out at the races
waltzing on the balcony of the Waipa Hotel –
Dad with his pockets full of fancy
the town’s wake of champagne corks and ribbons
Mum laughing as he murmurs something?
All these years later in a midsummer night’s dream
as I’m saying hullo and saying goodbye to them
waiting at the traffic lights as Huntly floats downstream.

Bob Orr was born in Hamilton in 1949 and now lives in Auckland. For many years he worked for the Auckland Harbour Board. His collections include Blue Footpaths (1971), Poems for Moira (1979), Cargo (1983), Red Trees (1985), Breeze (1991), Valparaiso (2002). He has never shown much inclination to involve himself in literary journalism – or to write anything other than poems.

Orr comments: ‘“Eternity” is a poem from a section in my last book Valparaiso that deals with my childhood, or my recollection of it, on a Waikato farm during the 1950s and early 1960s. However in spite of its physical detail which could probably be verified by anyone driving that way (Huntly, not Eternity!) to me it works more on an imaginative level than a strictly autobiographical one.’

Poem source details >