Title: Sport 38

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2010, Wellington

Part of: Sport

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Sport 38: Winter 2010

Rae Varcoe

page 125

Rae Varcoe

Night Light

the ghosts of former patients
wander the oncology wards by night

they are sure of their way
they know each lino tile, each drip stand,
each stiff enclosing curtain

they audit the peaks of the temperature charts
they are amused by the notes of the medical staff

they wish prescribers accuracy and effectiveness
they observe the lists, they examine the lockers

the voices sounding from the TV
remind them how alone they were, how lonely

before they leave
they wash their hands

page 126

October 2009: Five Weeks In Dunedin

Robert Lord Writers Cottage

as an Albatross crests
the nippled ridge
of the Peninsula

in the city
the bare legs
of skateboarding students
display goose bumps
huge enough to
affect their aerodynamics

and after all that stoking
of the cottage range
my handkerchief
insists that my sinuses
contain a coalmine

I am clad in merino
from occiput to ankle
as poems struggle out
my fingerless gloves
like possum joeys
from their pouches

the rubbish man whose
weekly truck recycles
my writings says he
works only two days
on the rubbish
the rest of the time
he is an artist

I envy his clarity

page 127

Wilfred Owen's Bones

Ors Communal Cemetery 2007

his is the third stone
in the top line
of these gravid rows

the words are sharp and clear
but is his body here
deep beneath my feet?

after ninety years
of drifting down in sediment
cloth, skin, flesh and viscera

will have escaped
as leachate
to the creek

then dispersed
like his words,
to the uttermost ends of the earth

this viscid weeping
will moisten only
buttons, bones

and a single
end-stopped
bullet

page 128

My Hairdresser

My hairdresser says his daughter is unwell

He says all year she has had colds, flu', pains and women's bothers

He says, after loads of tests, a diagnosis been found

My hairdresser explains that the stomach is like a funnel

and all the food drops down onto a knobbly mat

The knobbles absorb calories and vitamins and iron

My hairdresser says his daughter has no knobbles on her mat

She now eschews gluten and takes iron through a drip

My hairdresser says she is no better

My hairdresser says his daughter is depressed

My hairdresser's wife does not agree with Citalopram

My hairdresser is paying for counselling

The mirror says my hairdresser has not been concentrating

page 129

In Praise of Euthanasia

Do you need
your GP
to be in favour
of euthanasia
or would you
be happier if he stayed
persuaded by the
notion of your
remaining life
serving a purpose
obscured from you
by brain failure,
desperate breathlessness
humiliating immobility,
or by your own
neon
screaming.

page 130

Day One, Dunedin Med School Class Reunion

Beaming, I ask, 'How are you Brian?
I am really pleased to see you.'
He answers briskly, 'I am dying.'

'I want to think that you are lying,
to me you seem as good as new.
I ask, again, 'How are you Brian?'

'Lung cancer's why I'm coughing
I'm having trouble breathing too.
That's it. I don't like it. I am dying.'

We listen to his life unwinding
It is barely two weeks since he knew
I had asked, 'How are you, Brian?'

He's planned out all this meeting
the trips, the visits, the Sextet too
and now he knows he's dying.

Yet he's in the foyer, greeting
his laughing, hearty comrades who
all ask, 'How are you Brian?'
He says, unflinching, 'I am dying.'