Make no mistake. The delicacy of the horn is a porcelain
vase, its rage a gun that shoots its victims down. It is yes
with a dozen meanings, the yes of no, the yes of maybe,
an almanac, the shudder of love and the shout of the
policeman, a bearer of drinks. The horn is the tongue of
the road, insolent and hard in what it takes, a singer that
can assume any damn lyric.
It is a black choir, a choir of boys in a cathedral, the Pope
as he blesses a crowd, white with flecks of gold and
purple. A low noise, calculating. The horn resists an
answer. It drives a long way for you. Yes and no muster a
discordant tune. The horn is rules made in an instant,
details etched in the ear-drum’s cells, insistent you are
nothing more than here.
It is the day as it becomes smaller about you, abandoned
everywhere, marked with incomprehension,
announcements in a foreign tongue, how to buy food,
what to expect. The horn reduces to these simple things
and it drains you. The querulous tongue is one
of complaint, of imminent argument, where threats
are the taking of territory and a refusal to see the consequences.
The couple in the taxi queue has been wounded. She is
blotched with iodine and his arm is in plaster. The horn
does not care. They find a car and she lifts their case into
the boot. Pain burns them. An Egyptian drives through the city.
He understands the pattern of bruises like a roadmap.
His English is halting but he finds where each one leads.
This is the tongue and the taking, every step retraced.
Tom Weston has published three volumes of poetry over the last twelve years, two in collaboration with painter Joanna Braithwaite. The poem included here is taken from his most recent collection, Small Humours of Daylight (Steele Roberts), published February 2008. Weston works from Christchurch as a Queen’s Counsel and also sits as a part-time Judge in the Cook Islands. He reviews poetry for The Press.
Weston comments: ‘ “Traffic Noise” arose out of experiences in Athens and Istanbul where the car horn appears to be the most significant accessory for any self respecting driver. Fundamentally, though, the poem is less about its geographical provenance than about communication and language, the car horn standing in for the international tongue. The cacophony of the poem’s rhythms becomes more obvious when read aloud.’