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  • Before the storm the air was dim and heavy with dust
    when the first drops fell I could still see
    the dull browns and tans of the low, tabled hills ahead
    still follow, the pale stretch of green along the highway
    and beyond, the red earth waiting
    a dull and lingering anxiety over the land
    the distant flickering,
    broody and foreboding

    So we raced along, wind-blown like all the rest
    chasing the last of the day
    while afternoon sunk early to a lingering twilight
    and the windshield was strewn with diamonds and rubies

    With the storm fell the night
    darkness bounded the highway
    streaks of lightening floodlight the vast plain
    sudden and frightening reminders
    that the world was still there but like another dimension now
    only apparent when the fabric was rent

    The present narrowed to a thin ribbon
    bright with brake lights
    the road not lined and ordered but a tumbling unmarked stream
    public holiday makers in a rush to the Durban beaches
    truckers with the last load of the week
    all rushing
    each destination an unasked question,

    I was left to read the road through beacons now:

    Red for the flare of brakes
    as someone ahead encountered a truck
    heavy as a rock in the free flowing stream.
    For a moment, as I pass,
    the headlights of the oncoming traffic only a meter away on one side
    the wild flapping tarps covering the towering load on the other
    the air thick with the gouts of road spume flung out by the spinning wheels
    I feel the dice tossed moment vibrating around me.

    Flashing white of high-beams
    the universal signal of impatience
    for the privileged travellers set high above the common road
    I pull aside to make way
    make clear the way

    Together we flow down the long rapids
    winding through Van Reenen’s Pass
    wipers flicking rain and the spray from bald truck tires along the wet slick road
    dropping almost 2000 meters off the high plateau
    down off the Escarpment
    down to hills of Natal below.
    Down through the dark and the night.
    Down and away.
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