Sport 38: Winter 2010
You've pulled off the highway to have it out at last
in this small lay-by, improbably picturesque,
you both recall, in daylight, but tonight the dark
makes a lit box of the ticking car,
the things that bound you—music, booze—
no longer big enough to exclude
your differences. After a difficult pause
it starts to rain, but the windscreen's
dry. You're listening to applause,
work of many hands in a concert hall,
Vienna, 1991, showering
their praise on two that now fall
silent, their run of luck having found
its exit from felicity, its natural end.
Things were fatal but not urgent.
We used more make-up and less speed.
We saw the hectic colour on one side
and the blank space on the other.
What went up came down then drilled its way
metres deep into the earth. Under
the turned table we learned to live
on our own chewing gum
while unfamiliar implements played
dinner music above our heads.
We adapted—it was what we knew
how to do—but the sugar cubes kept
getting smaller. Whereas before
we had been known by name,
now we only crept to the watering holes
under cover of darkness, then sat
with chins on our knees and waited while
the new customers declined our terms
in favour of their own impenetrable
argot. Sign met size and came off
second best, bedding down with lice
and livestock in the basement of
the air we used to own. While
they were busy ransacking
the drawers there was still time to rue
our civilised discontents, but now
the sudden silence impends overthrow.
We stare at one another, suspended
in the pause before the shouting
and splintering Hollywood has, as it
turns out, so well prepared us for,
the breathless interval before our new
lives, hat and coatless in the snow.
I like to think my mother may have been a tree
like Fred's, the oak whose Elizabethan
damask skirts each year spring-clean
the hillside opposite, in front of the house
where Fred was born. Her royal foliage
conceals a peasant's weatherbeaten
limbs, the same unfussed embrace.
Fred never sees her now,
he's in a rest-home up the coast
and doesn't get out much
and so, in lieu, she fosters me
from unconditional dawn
to dusk and through the night,
her feet in earth, her head
in air, water in the veins, and what
transpires between us is the breath
of life. In the morning birds
fly out of her hair, in the evening
they are her singing brain
that sings to me. My mother as a tree:
my house, my spouse, my dress
and nakedness, my birth, my death,
before and afterwards. I like
to think my tears may be her
watershed, not just for me.