Sport 17: Spring 1996
To Start With
when I'm not staring at the wall
I do nothing serious. Most evenings
I squint my eyes with all my might I squint my eyes
and that's fun. And then I flex my fingers
the wrong five first, then those that remain
and sometimes, every finger at once.
When I want to write fast my fingers
let me write fast, and when I stay in the room
they stay and keep me company
and when there's words they write
I can't write without them.
You would have to be as simple
as I am so often simple to say such things
and anyway, the words aren't mine
I happened to read them once in a big book
I found ages ago in one of the other rooms
and no one came to claim the book
blank and tender and singing of walls.
And if you should ask, Am I reading nothing?
perhaps a patch of blue sky will lose its way
and all those feelings beyond your bewareness
especially those that taste of the dense
bitter smell of apples rotting in paradise
hatred, sadness, rage, despair
will vanish to laughter, or even, a smile.
For a time, then, you will stay here reading
before you stop and go and do other things
that's how it is. For company
you will have had these words
page 14 which aren't mine now, but yours alone.
When I lie in my room and face the wall
I think of that, but mostly
of other less serious things
meanwhile, tonight, in pouring rain
I tried to start my car. I flexed my fingers
the right five first, then those that remained.
I wanted to drive to a phone and ring Jen
somewhere amongst the millions of Istanbul
but the spark plugs were soaking wet.
One patch of blue sky lost its way
and my rage became yet more rage.
For seven years, Boddidharma stared at a wall.
And when someone, offering a severed arm
asked him, How can I settle my mind?
he said, flexing his heart, First you must find it.
When you know how to do it and know
nothing but walls, it's simple to be calm
about other more important things