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Sport 2: Autumn 1989

Virginia Were — We Listen for You on the Radio

page 42

Virginia Were

We Listen for You on the Radio

We know that there is
a yacht out there
struck into our map,
a star disabled north of Cape Reinga.
The cyclone blows it backwards
so that the land is
two hundred miles away; more than that.

You are out there
and the sea
will find its way into your ears
and mouth, it
fills your eyes with salt.
And land is somewhere.
You hold it in front of your eyes

in the small place that is safety
and walking down the street,
slow walking soft light,
your lover curled into the
small of your back,
a child clinging to the tips
of your fingers,

and the apples falling from the tree,
rotting in the yellow grass.
You can't see the horizon and
your life passes in the
time it takes to fall from
the top of a wave
and rise to the next,

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and you fall fall fall
an eternity of apples
and the breaking of
The face of the next wave
is the face of your lover.

You have never seen
anything like it (these waves).
The sea will swallow you
if you don't get it right,
straight up the face, tremble
on the eyelash on the wave —
down the nose and into the hungry

mouth where it is hollowed,
(Your child)
The branch snapped
and she fell
cried and you were there
with comfort and you

bound and soothed, held her
in your arms.
(The ribs are sprung,
the water finds its way in)
and we hear your voice crackle
out of phase down the radio,
the child and I.

(If you had two arms you would
hold us both.)
We cling to each other
even as you cling to the back
of your life,
cling to the few words that tell us
you are somewhere out there alive,

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with three broken ribs,
running hills and valleys
our photograph safe inside your oilskin.
That you are alive,
eking out a can of spaghetti,
some biscuits,
plumbing the wet chart

the face of land, the face
of each new wave mountain.
Time stops, three more days
of gale force winds
crawl on their bellies towards
We don't know if you can

hear us, we can hear you.
We watch the tiny star which gives
your position make its way
down the TV screen on the
six o'clock news.
Your face is a little square
on the front page of The Sun.

The ends of bone crunch each other.
The radio threads you in
to us, then there is silence.
We would have the land moved
for you,
peeling back contours, licking
them and sticking an entire island

its outline for you to step off
onto land.