Title: Sport 39: 2011

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2013, Wellington

Part of: Sport

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Sport 39: 2011

Ashleigh Young

page 235

Ashleigh Young


A man asks my father, ‘Who was that girl?’
even though we’ve all flown together in EBD,
all the way up the South and North Islands,
over a hundred green rivers, even though I’m my dad’s daughter.
My dad laughs Ha and doesn’t answer.

I don’t like the smell of the airport. Brown couches and stale
chicken chippies and other kids’ dads, men in short shorts who drink
from the emerald cans you find in those rivers. The smell of engine oil
in cracked hands. I ride on the swingset.
I buck like a horse. I grip my rusty reins and pray.

One day Macintosh toffees come bulleting out of the clouds.
The kiddies flap all over the runway. My dad
takes my brother to do aerobatics in EBD.
My brother comes down, grinning through vomit.
My father, pure muscle, pushes the plane back to its stable.

Cars go slow from the air, like they’re driving on velcro.
His favourite observation is that the sheep
look like grains of rice. Nobody can argue
with those tiny white bodies trickling down a slope.
And on a clear, still day, afterwards he says
it was like flying on a magic carpet.

At airfields I sit in the grass, stomach bubbling
while he siphons fuel from a lone pump
into a hole in EBD’s wing. Because there’s no one around
that feels like stealing. We are always miles, days, years
from our house and the wind is always heavy and blowing.

page 236 The mike in front of my dad’s mouth wobbles as he speaks
in a secret code to the secret man
inside the radio. The back of his neck
has moles from the seventies; they are as big and round as eyes,
watching to make sure
I’m still here.


I called him whale. Because when he slept he made a hissing,
keening sound, like a whale breaching.
Sometimes he woke us both up with a frightening howl
and once we’d calmed down, told how he was trying
to explain something time-critical in the dream
but his jaw had rusted shut because of all the salt water.
My room was too small to house a whale.
This poem also is too small to describe a whale.
But at night his body grew long and broad.
He went out drifting, sidling on a flipper, his breath
pluming into the crooked rain.
In the future there will be pictures of how he changed
like the frightening story of evolution at the museum:
rat, fish, monkey, man.
I clung onto his back, trying to hold him
down there in the water.

page 237

Secret Location

For the party they are taking us to a secret location.
Somebody aims a camera as I stand on the jetty.

My body isn’t aware yet that I need to be ready
to move both my feet and take myself

onto the boat which is taking us now
to the destination. It is Christmas again

and we’ve forgotten
how the sea becomes new:

light comes suddenly to its surface:
the water fills with glowing circuits.

Last year my eyes became better used to negatives
they can’t hold the light of this

black cloud shining.
I’m always turning back and raising my glass

to make my friends’ faces shine out of the cabin.
My boy told me that the roar of his airplane

felt like having a motor in your body.
I think he would say a small boat is the same

my body’s big with shaking.
The secret location seems to be

somewhere in the bush on the island.
Think of wet flax, the quiet, dark with birds.

See a wooden jetty, a runway, jutting into the land.