Sport 37: Winter 2009
South Island Map
Once, the map had my childhood at the start—
even then I suspected my world was too small.
My greatest fear was that I would never
scramble over our fence and run far enough away.
Today, I unfolded a map as large as my body
and I was afraid of stepping onto the land.
I was afraid of the long brown road
at the centre of the island and the spine
of mountains that ran beside it. I imagined
trees blowing in the wind.
When my father died, I knew our bodies
could fail. When my father was gone
it was hard to even remember
my fiercely held desire to run.
Mirrors in motels did strange things
to my body. One made me tall and thin
but with a pointed head. In another
I was as wide as an ironing board.
On satin bedspreads I peered at the map
as if it held the rules
for entry to a foreign land.
Some days I loved the roads.
You were at the wheel and over
and over we stopped to photograph
what was on our minds.
Your picture of the girl in Hampden was me
in childhood. I was on that road—a few houses,
a field of rough grass where horses grazed.
I was about to turn into Square Street.
A shopping bag trailed from my hand
as I walked the distance to my house on the hill.
To journey you have to have 'a heart
of steel, not a heart that is broken . . .'
I read that in a novel and wrote it down
on a scrap of paper. I wanted it to imply
that travellers have to be stout-hearted
and love adventure.
Today, we saw poplars on small hills
that looked like feathers planted in the land.
When the wind blew, their leaves flashed
like silver coins.