Sport 41: 2013
Ashleigh Young — from Things to do
Go riding all the time, even in the snow, especially
in the snow. It is safer to ride in the middle of the road
where the snow is run down. My brother hooks a trailer
over, with a girl and a boy inside, one yellow flag shaking
out the wind. People stop to watch them: that white
man has Chinese children. A slow girl is bringing
up the rear. It is acceptable to make a scene because
my brother is so handsome. When the children push
their faces to the netting they wear the dark
visors of swordfighters. Their father brings them
through the welter of Brixton to the market
where living crabs are heaped on ice, stirring a little
creaking a little, still moving on a shore of trotters
and halved faces: strange hands, folded in the ice.
A fox of straw is crouched on the south bank.
It is the size of a hot air balloon and as quiet
as one. Its body has blackened with smog and scurf
and now pigeons barnacle the fox’s back, its ears
and bale head. Only the eyes of downturned wood
are let alone. When riding over Waterloo Bridge it comes
at me like a headwind: the fog in the river, the sun
in the fog, the fox in the sun. The far below river.
page 23 Halfway over my breath doubles back to break me apart
and I am forced to rise on handlebars to meet it
as something rising dumbly to its hind legs.
Find Vulpes vulpes crouched beneath a parked car.
Knelt in the wet leaves, so like a dog it could be
carried home and wrapped in bandages. When we go by
its dog-eyes follow from the undercarriage.
My new workmates find out that I cannot
speak Arabic. A visiting professor tells me I am swarthy
like a Persian; I must understand his surprise.
On the day that Bin Laden is thrown into the sea
I am looking for a depiction of the great poet Rumi.
My workmates seem afraid to go home, to go out
in the street. The students lower their eyes
in the kitchenette. And so on and so forth, my boss says
and so on and so forth. Let us have the story of Layla
and her mad lover Majnun, whose family left food
for him after he went out into the desert.
He has rushed into my cubicle, his forehead peeling.
Yes, let us have the illumination of the lovers fainting
at their meeting. Blacked out in the grass at the base
of the tree, with the animals watching over them.
page 24 Every 3 o’clock I’m cut cleanly from a husk
of sleep. The cut is fast; there’s never a pain.
My head is helmeted in silence, as if it never
knew silence. Out in the yard snow is skinning
the trees. When the upstairs neighbours throw
each other like chairs about the room, police cars come
on drifts of snow. My nephew cries that a creature
is on him. I am a fold-out aunt; I make space
on the couch. Voices falter down on us, but tomorrow
we will have a photo by the broken wall on Endymion
Road. All night the computer mouse gleams
on the half-lit dining table. My nephew informs me
that it is a dolphin; that it was woken
but now is sleeping. Sleep makes my nephew’s body
smooth and whole, ready to skim across linoleum
or be skipped across a body of water.