Title: Sport 39: 2011

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2013, Wellington

Part of: Sport

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Sport 39: 2011

Tim Upperton

page 175

Tim Upperton

The trouble with poetry

In the poem which is like a house the poet is looking
out a window. This is to say, he is looking into his own
furnished, sensitive mind. Sometimes he doesn’t see anything
out the window at all, it’s so reflective, and that’s one kind of poem.
Sometimes he sees something you wouldn’t notice but—
because he’s sensitive—he gets worked up about it. Not too much.
A thrush on the lawn, for example, yes, a lyric thrush pecking
at the soil, its bright, hard eye, a light rain falling,
and it reminds the poet somehow of his friend’s last days
at the hospital, and what he said to his friend, or didn’t say,
and meanwhile his hands are doing nothing in particular
and so he’s now peeling fruit, maybe a pear, the flesh gleaming
wetly under the knife. So there’s the pear, the speckled rind
spooling naturally into a self-deprecating, slightly goofy anecdote
to offset the gloominess about his friend. He’s sensitive, not morbid.
His glass of chilled sauvignon blanc—there it is, in his hand—
catches the yellowy light. And he’s a poet, not a novelist,
so after a page he’s winding it all up, the friend, the pear,
his wine the colour almost of grass, the rain, and evening coming on,
finishing, of course, with the thrush on the lawn, its head cocked,
bent to the ground, acutely listening to the unseen thing tunnelling there.

page 176


I’ve got a new car. It goes better than my old one.
The places it takes me to aren’t better.
It just gets me to them in a better way.
The places are the same, only worse for being looked at
again. The people are definitely worse.
I want whole new people.
I want people like my new car, which is new,
and smells sweet and artificial inside.
It’s not possible, but I want that.
I want you to be new. I want to be
inside new you and to drive you insane.
Insane would be better. Let’s go there.
Just get in the car now, please.

page 177

Take care,

I say, as I sign off, meaning what, exactly?
It’s better than best wishes, I guess, though you have those,
my best wish being that you take care—when, for instance,
you run up Mount Victoria or along Oriental Parade,
that you are mindful of inattentive motorists who change CDs
or answer texts or who just drive crazy fast and I know,
they haven’t got murder on their minds, but they would crush you
and their lives would be changed like yours for the worse
and they would be very sorry but what’s the use of being sorry?
Take care as you ride certain Wellington streets, your face scrunched,
set into the wind that at any moment could catch the loose flap
of your jacket and cartwheel you and your frail bike into the sea,
and as you crested each swell it would catch you again and blow you
further and further out. Take care when unwrapping yourself
at night, because you have sharp edges and many times I have cut
my hands on them in the darkness through not taking care.
Yours is the way of carelessness. Yours is the way of near misses,
of prangs, falls, of that was close and Phew! You should finely regard
what you disregard. You should be marked fragile, this way up,
and you should be handled, if you are handled at all, with care.
You are precious, so carry yourself carefully through this day,
don’t drop yourself because you will smash and fly apart
in every direction, and then, and when that happens—
who will gather you, who will pick you all up I’d like to know?

page 178

You want the truth?

There is no truth. But OK, you don’t look good in that.
Not good at all. It makes your waist, well, thicker.
Your mother’s taste runs to cheap. Velluto Rosso is not a wine.
Whenever I see a Monet print on a wall, I want to punch a hole in it.
The wall, too. Renoir I can live with.
I didn’t sleep with her, but there are others you don’t know about.
The heart is a forest in which the trees are felled, one by one.
Mary Poppins is a terrible movie. So is The Sound of Music.
In fact anything with Julie Andrews in it, forget it.
I love you conditionally. The conditions haven’t been met.
I know I drink too much. There are reasons. God knows,
there are reasons. The heart is a dark forest. You know what?
I think we’re done here.

page 179


Is coming. This is a poem about spring,
which is too much. Everything is too much.
This is a poem about everything.
I ruin everything I touch.

I ruin the jonquils, the daffodils.
I ruin the I love you.
I ruin the blue remembered hills.
The apple-trees vomit blossom. I ruin the morning dew.

Mine is a peculiar badness.
You are reduced to the smell of your hair.
Mine is a peculiar sadness.
You are almost not quite there.

Which is to say, I am terrified.
Meanwhile the grassy goodness, the lengthening day.
It’s not as if you died.
You come closer and closer away.