Sport 2: Autumn 1989
We are only just safe here in the thin air
weak blue above flying at 897 kmph
Borneo 11,880 metres below or
if you prefer it we are perched
on top of the clouds flying at 558 mph
39,000 feet above the green ruckus of Borneo
knuckly white clouds clenched and rising towards us
like serene contortions of virtue
is it the real true blue world
around us the purest unearthliness
we'll ever know? and the corrugated
white greying sky
is it the stain
of what's not new gathering around us
as we descend into that other world
that's other always always other?
We're told it's Borneo forested
mountainous infested and I believe
most of what the First Officer tells us
so confidently assuringly
across the aisle a white woman
crosses herself when the 'Fasten Seatbelts' sign
lights up and smarts and as we begin to renew
our intimate acquaintance
with clouds something that looks like down
is combed across the wings
and breaks away
At times the river deserts us
and we're left to burn
unlaved, unsuckled, stripped bare.
Cattle scrunch and kick us
on their way to the water,
shower us with drips and spatter us
with dung on their return.
We live better.under water, the river's
clear varnish crinkling above us,
the underbellies of fish
cream as moonlight. Twigs and leaves
and insects and trees sweep by
without any say in where
they're going, while we cosily settle
and watch the clouds swoon
in the filmy blue. We belong in water
untroubled by envy for anything
born to live in the loneliness of air.
It's not a question or a matter of choice
so much as habit and a nagging sense of...
you said it, responsibility. And because
the road goes this way instead of that
you take it, sort of accepting what one
insufferable old fool said about breaking
new ground usually — well probably — being
an illusion. You're visiting your father whose
interest in you's revived now that your girlfriend's
broken the ice, so to speak, and got onside.
She is, he says, 'all right', and what he
says to his mates you can guess and hit
the jackpot first time. That's life isn't it.
He's into autumn and the skin on his face
is like a swatch of newly-fallen leaves.
He says, 'I thought they were getting ready
to beam me up the other day. Didn't feel good
at all.' You wouldn't have laughed near
as much if you hadn't believed him.
When you get up to leave you nudge him
and shake his shoulder as if he were
your son, and you try to walk with a
distinctly purposeful stride as you
go to your car, get in, wave and toot
and pull away like a reformed hell-raiser.
It's not yet five o'clock, late March,
and the teasing trace of a lost summer's pace
quickens, and then, perceptibly slows,
and the highest clouds stall and hang
between the blue and you, and you too.