Sport 41: 2013
Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle — from Autobiography of a Marguerite
A package of skin, a blister of garden, which has been here before,
which I stand for, which I stand in for. My mother stands in the
garden. She says, I can’t hear you. She says, is this a weed or not.
The phone rings and it’s for my mother, but she won’t come inside,
so I stand in for her. Is this a weed or not, she says, holding up the
We package ourselves to the doctor. I have symptoms, and what’s
more, I have signs. What are your symptoms, the doctor asks me.
Her symptoms are X, Y, Z, my mother answers.
(during the early afternoon) She was in the garden,
inventing a harvest (corn, wheat), flooding, shaking,
radius. (My sister needs glasses, my sister gets
headaches, seizures.) Expert flat frowning camera.
Jumping from the tree, self-timer. (Therefore I
want glasses, seizures.) I get stomach pains if I am
around people too long (a few hours). Hopeless
natural waste kernel. Aggressive bird. What kind
of pains do you get? Oak tree pains. (When I was a
girl, I jumped from the oak tree repeatedly, trying
to break a leg.)
A location in the waiting room but no extent. My mother has
taken time off work, or maybe she has quit work. I am given a
questionnaire, we complete it. I print my name very slowly. You’ll
have to go quicker than that, my mother says, there’s a magazine
in her lap, she’s not reading it, she’s reading over my shoulder.
Question: How would you describe the pain? For example, is it like
being stabbed with a piece of glass. My mother takes the paper from
me, Would it be helpful if I did the writing. But I don’t know, I say,
I’ve never been stabbed with a piece of glass.
Ached, pillaging, dampen. Lollygag. (But mother.
You bought her an ice cream the last time she went
to the doctor.) Nothing rhymes with orange, but
I like orange-flavoured confectionery. Confect,
infect. Regarding pain, regarding value. (Yes but
she was really sick, her headache was very bad.)
I stop going to school. All the days feel the same, I am held on
a needle until another loop passes through me, waiting to be a
product, something of value. For we were saved in this hope,
but hope that is seen is not hope. I need something else, so my
grandmother tries to teach me to knit. One narrative theory is that
one never dies in knitting. Are you watching me, she says. Outside
there is no weather. But my watch has stopped, I say.
I can see you don’t believe me. (Take off the lid.)
Supplemental to the rest of. The whole would
be unchanged if. I can’t see your point. (when
I walked in the street, I didn’t look at people’s
faces because I didn’t want them to look at my
face. Why are you looking at me.) Ectropionised:
rhymes with: disguised, criticised, patronised,
generalised, traumatised, hospitalised, pressurised,
God won’t help me, so I have to read self-help books. I have time
on my hands. I have to stay inside. I am watching everything very
closely: myself, the pine trees, the pot plants, the rain, the furniture.
I can see myself from the perspective of myself and I can also see
myself from the perspective of the pine trees, the pot plants, the
rain, the furniture. What I mean to say is. I am inside and outside
at the same time. I have time on my hands. I have to stay at home. I
have to hurry up and read the books before they are due back at the
library. Last night I dreamt that I blew my nose and something like a
placenta came out. I open a self-help book that is about reading self-
help books. The preface says, If you are reading this, you are beyond
self-help. I think about myself as a child, I see my face and it doesn’t
seem real. The uterus of the forest, the winding blowing through it,
under the pine needles. I think about myself lying on a bed, covered
in needles. I am going to an acupuncturist once a week. Not because
I want my symptoms reduced, but because I want to be touched.
What we choose to digest. She was fed by her.
Heavy, severe, arduous, pouring, bodyguard.
Heavy (a pretty grave works) (You must eat or
you’ll be weak). Baked, sugared, fried, mostly,
vastly, brightly, generally. My mother, broken sun
inside the teacup. Drink it before it gets cold. (No
one else was eating the cake, I felt bad that it might
go to waste, I felt responsible, I had another piece,
another, another piece.) I’m always crashing into
I cough onto the window. Outside the window the street is eating
itself. I am eating a piece of bread, chewing as if I can’t decide
whether to swallow. I need to go outside but my neighbour is out
there. I’m waiting until she goes away.
She goes away and I go outside. But I was wrong, she didn’t go
away, she was still there, but I couldn’t see her, she had gone into
her garage momentarily. My neighbour is wearing complementary
colours which hurt my eyes. She is holding a pair of hedge clippers.
She says hello. I say hello back, but not in the tone that one usually
says hello, more like in the tone that one says sandwich. I don’t
look her in the eye. She asks me where I am going. I am going to
the hospital, I say. It’s the third time I’ve broken my arm this year.
She bends down to cut the head off a dandelion. Is that so, she says.
Well, did you know, once I went to three weddings in a month.
Gut weather, needled weekend, needed a forecast,
a qualifier. (I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Think
about people who are______.) (How was your
weekend?) Congested, squeezed, chalked, coped.
Weak end of. Weakened, (I didn’t do anything)
Tract (Who in your family was ‘always sick’?) On
a scale of, Expected, fore, tracked, trapped. To
detract: (The world is difficult. I want someone to
look after me).