Sport 41: 2013
Gregory Kan — from This paper boat on paper
After lunch my mother walks into the dining room
and my father and I both
blow our noses.
In the past when I thought about people my parents
not among them. But some wound stayed
wide in all of us, and now I see in their
faces strange rivers and waterfalls, tilted over with broom.
I am watching the brown-paper covers of books grow
about my father, as he dreams there
against the wall, thinking perhaps
how rocks are not quite lands.
Wherever my father was with his friends, they
would look out for Tembusu trees, and they would
look out for the perfectly symmetrical fork of
a branch. The slingshot he gave me when I was
seven was smooth and varnished. The trunk of a
Tembusu tree is dark brown, with deeply fissured
bark. The best ammunition is a glass marble, he
tells me, because it is perfectly round, and this
perfect roundness ensures the consistency of its
My father works in a study at the front of the house, where he can see
only a portion of street, through the driveway’s
mouth. I watch him dab his eye
with a tissue, the drooping eyelid no longer
able to adequately spread
and contain its fluid.
Last year, he fell against the stone
steps of his sister’s house in Singapore, damaging the
nerves and muscles on one side
of his face. Some cultures consider crying to be
undignified. The Mäori tangi involves the cultivation of intense
wetness around the eyes
and nose. In this expression of mourning, the wetness of living bodies
is invoked. Wet touch is closer and faster than dry touch. Sound travels
more quickly in water, as does electricity.
The air between me and my father is hung
with tiny water droplets.
It is true, then, that we are always touching what we can
sometimes never possess.
The New Zealand post office rejected my father’s
application to be a mail sorter. He loves New
Zealand, but says he finds it hard to elude the
growing sense of his own uselessness. He is terrified
of becoming a burden, unable to fuck, walk or
even speak. At home in Auckland he is always at
his computer. Every email he writes is copied to
every friend he has. As a child he would climb the
Flame of the Forest in his backyard. On the roof
of the house, talking at strangers passing along the
dirt road below, safe from dogs. I like to imagine
him being mistaken for a chimney.
I urge him through. I know that behind his answers
the memories trickle toward deep
cuts of anger.
Yuan Gui—a ghost who has died a wrongful death.
He roams the world of the living, waiting
for his grievances to be redressed. He hasn’t left
anywhere he’s been.