Sport 32: Summer 2004
If you were expecting a weighty tome,
you'll be disappointed.
The Book of Sadness is actually
quite small—a manky paperback, in fact,
that will fit snugly in a pocket.
Perusing a dim alcove of a second-hand shop,
I latched onto it immediately.
It had seen many owners.
I spied your name, inked
in your careful, considered hand
—and my own scrawl, of course,
lurching like a drunken spider.
I wondered what page you'd got up to,
but there were so many folded corners
and abandoned bookmarks
it was impossible to tell.
I opened one at random and, yes,
the passage was bleak beyond conscience;
after each sentence, I could feel
my slim allotment of hope
draining into sand.
Indeed, it would not take much
of such ‘wrung consequence’
to leave one
‘foetal in the well's zero’.
At the counter I offered five dollars,
as the soft-pencilled price indicated.
‘I'm sorry, but it's actually ten,’
said old Mr P. ‘You see, it's signed.’
‘But,’ I mumbled, ‘I'm the author.’
‘Good for you,’ said old Mr P quietly,
‘good for you.’
My flatmate is an artist.
He says that making art
is all about preparation and focus,
so that you're always ready
for whenever inspiration
He reckons it's a lot like
watching test cricket
—all too easy to be looking
the wrong way at the
crucial delivery. Apparently,
just tuning into the highlights
is no substitute
for watching every ball.
I like listening to him
because he's got a degree
in physics or phys ed
He's what some people call
a ‘PhD postie’, and he's full
of really out-of-it theories.
he always eats breakfast
before going to bed
in order to
save time in the mornings.
And he believes that mail delivery
is like an enormous work in progress
that he and other posties
the world over
are trying to perfect.
He says just crossing our road
can be quite a performance.
‘But how do you know,’ I say,
‘that what you end up with
is art?’ He says it's difficult
to explain to people who aren't
artists themselves, but that
it's like being in love—you just know.
‘Oh,’ I say, because I don't.
So he agrees to show me.
We begin with cornflakes.
In many ways he would have been ideal.
He had a relevant qualification.
Some months before he had even spent a few days in our office,
at his own instigation, to gain work experience.
During that time he had been willing and eager,
and had picked things up quickly.
He'd gone about the menial tasks we'd given him
with a grateful enthusiasm.
He'd got on well with everyone.
He was punctual, presentable and had
a sense of humour.
That's important in our line of work.
When I saw that he'd applied, my heart sank.
I know this is unfair, but I felt angry toward him.
Nevertheless, we went through the interview process
in a fair and balanced manner.
Afterwards, he rang up wanting to know why.
I said the usual stuff about the large number of quality applicants.
He was calm and polite, and ended the call by saying
that he hoped the door wasn't completely closed.
I have only seen him on three occasions since:
once, sitting by himself on a park bench, and once
reading a notice in the Central Library. And the other day
I was stuck in traffic and
there he was, crossing the road,
up in the sky.