Country Town – Joy Hooten

Two centuries of history have marked/this country town more than most./Driving in from the west, down a narrow/road fringed with poplars,/you’d swear you were in Europe./In the main street, broad as a/Paris boulevard, years have’receded like a tide, bleaching /the bones of a thriving past./At weekends the bakeries are thronged/as travellers pass through to the coast,/but on wintry nights when/not even a brown dog stirs and/the only human face belongs to /a war memorial’s traditional soldier,/frost, wind and silence seem/to have the town to themselves.//But surfaces mislead.//Some distance from the western edge of town,/and left by design or chance/when the highway was put through,/ a massive rock,/barely contained by the shoulder, and/one side cut sheer as a pane of glass,/watches the road.//Pressed into unofficial service as a billboard,/and freshly painted for every message,at a hidden time,/by unknown hands or hand,/this natural memorial of the living /blazes into every windscreen/glad tidings of the local young.