A poem by Isobel Dixon

Kudu Watch

Signs bloom mysterious,
loom sudden, briefly luminous,
moonflowers edged in red.

Our lights create the road,
its unremitting dashes are
a pale Morse code, monotonous,

as I count the kilometres
mesmerised. Keep watch,
still far to go. We are taking it slow

tonight, this lonely stretch
notorious for lulling
the unwary to unbroken rest.

Here in the passenger seat
I feel the night’s weight,
the need to press back sleep,

for both our sakes and for those
who wait for us. My mother
baking, changing sheets, preparing,

wearing herself out with tense
expectancy. Through my own
long-journey weariness

I try to reckon all the years
I’ve known this road, the stories
of its spectral hitchhiker –

how I felt for her, bleak shade
endlessly thumbing useless rides,
always en route. And now

with this tar, and all of Africa
between my homes and sisters
I am back on midnight guard:

eyes peeled for chalky markings
on a granite pelt, the phosphor flare
of light reflected on a startled eye,

a stirring on the verge, a muscled
gathering: strange that a gently
grazing herbivore can, leaping, be

death’s angel here. I feel the world
relies on my night vigilance,
ever-alert. Who could see

that my vision of anxiety
is not the buck clearing the fence,
but the devastating consequence

of a smaller body crashing
through the screen’s transparency,
how worlds collide:

Woman Shatters Windscreen,
Exploding From Inside.

(from A Fold in the Map Salt, 2007)
Isobel Dixon’s collections The Tempest Prognosticator and A Fold in the Map are published by Salt. Her work is featured in Birdbook I, Coin Opera II and Psycho Poetica (all published by Sidekick), Penguin’s Poems for Love and Salt’s Best of British Poetry 2011. She co-wrote and performed in The Debris Field.