Sanctuary Judith Wright

Sanctuary #

The road beneath the giant original trees

sweeps on and cannot wait. Varnished by dew,

its darkness mimics mirrors and is bright

behind the panic eyes the driver sees

caught in headlights. Behind the wheels the night

takes over: only the road ahead is true.

It knows where it is going; we go too.

Sanctuary, the sign said Sanctuary -

trees, not houses; flat skins pinned to the road

of possum and native cat; and here the old tree stood

for how many thousand years? that old gnome-tree

some axe-new boy cut down. Sanctuary, it said:

but only the road has meaning here. It leads

into the world’s cities like a long fuse laid.

Fuse, nerve strand of a net, tense

bearer of messages, snap-tight violin-string,

dangerous knife-edge laid across the dark,

what has that sign to do with you? The immense

tower of antique forest and cliff, the rock

where years accumulate like leaves, the tree

where transient birds and mindless insect sing?

The word the board holds up is Sanctuary

and the road knows that the notice-boards make sense,

but has not time to pray. Only, up there,

morning sets doves upon the power line.

Swung on that fatal voltage like a sign

and meaning love, perhaps they are a prayer.