Title: Sport 12

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, March 1994, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 12: Autumn 1994

John Dickson

page 112

John Dickson

because of this thing that will happen on tuesday

for Juan

a few minutes before 11 am
on August the ninth, 1945
a man named Shigeyoshi Morimoto

stumbled from a train. During the previous
three days, he’d travelled two hundred miles
without food or sleep, and while he may

have passed through by remembering the blue
and yellow kites he’d made in a past life, or
by closely watching the person who owned

his face, what is certain is that while they froze
in the open coal truck he’d talked
with three companions. If I had the words

I could tell you what they said, what they felt
but in those days I’d aged only a year
and a day, when I googoood at butterflies

I didn’t know that in one millionth
of a second, a burst point reached a heat
of many million degrees Celsius.

On August the sixth, 1945
in the city of Hiroshima
a man named Shigeyoshi Morimoto

was buying supplies from a paint shop when shreds
of a paper wall protected his body
from a fast moving wind. I’ve no idea

page 113

how exact this is, but I know you want
to know what happens, to shush the fear
murmuring our hearts, you want to know if

afterwards we can go back home, and wash
the wind from our hands and faces, and
otherwise behold the world. Well, we can.

‘First of all, there’s a great blue flash,’ and if
your cells come back, you can travel to a time
before that time when a person aged so

quickly, they didn’t become a ghost, but what
was left, a grey smudge on a concrete wall.
The hills and trees will be familiar

and likewise the shops and crowded streets
and here’s the bush, and here’s the pond
and here’s the school where you learned to read

and here’s the park, the slide, the string
and here’s the kite, and here’s the wind.
And if, on entering the house, your mouth

is completely unowned, don’t worry, no one
will notice: as it speaks, they’ll hear
just one word: pika, pika, pika.

A few minutes before 11 am
on August the ninth, 1945
a man named Shigeyoshi Morimoto

stumbled from a train. As he hurried home
through the crowded streets of Nagasaki
a man named Ashworth told a man

page 114

named Sweeny, ‘Go ahead, drop it by radar.’
As far as I know, both men aged
at a normal speed. What is certain, is

so did Shigeyoshi Morimoto. Perhaps
he lived, because a few weeks before
August the ninth, 1945 (while kiwi

prisoners of the japanese—abandoned
by the angel of history—were
suffering severe alterations

to human flesh), somewhere in the mountains
west of Beijing, the whirling fragments
of a butterfly’s red wing

so altered the course of a summer storm
that when the materials of the bomb—plutonium
and berylium oxide—assembled

into a more compact
less leaky geometry

in which the neutron factor k

not only were the cells in position
restricted to a limited range of response
but also the planned drop point was

obscured by clouds, and ground zero by chance
was nine hundred yards further west from his shop.
Or perhaps he lived, because he recalled

page 115

a poem by Basho: ‘How wonderful, on seeing
lightning, not to think, Life, too, is brief.’
Or perhaps, there wasn’t a reason.

What is certain, is that a few nano seconds
after 11am on August the ninth, 1945
the man named Shigeyoshi Morimoto

convinced for two hundred and sixty thousand seconds
he would see it once again, once again
saw the blue flash, the pika; and as

the fast moving wind shredded the paper walls
he saved his wife and son by shoving
them both to the basement of his shop.

Of his three companions, there’s no report;
but for many years after, he lived and worked
in the city of Nagasaki; and while

he seldom spoke, he was always happy
when people flew his yellow and blue kites
‘in the same place, in yesterday’s sky’

letting their hearts quiver in the wind
which is a way of smudging the flash
while you live, as we do, in the radiance

of minus one millionth of a second

page 116


the car we part own is a BMW.
It’s a V6 painted green, and when
the used car dealer took us for a ride
we approached a seventy-five k S-bend
at one hundred and sixty ks an hour.
Fifty yards from the first curve
the oregon pine was dense, and then
we’d passed through, breathing
while we talked of this and that.
As a car, it’s fabulous to drive.
You can cruise at a hundred and ten k
and feel its reserve power
enough to drive all the way
to Bavaria’s famed Black Forest
while blitzkrieging your head
with industrial folk tunes
Blue Oyster Cult, Motorhead, Can.
Yeah, the BMW is just fine, except
we’re still paying back the loan
and speaking for myself, I don’t want
to bivvy in parks, and survive
on slabs of bee tripe; so twice a week
we drive to the local food bank.
And though the BMW’s only a coupe
it’s got a large boot, large enough
to hold ten bags of groceries
lark’s tongues in aspic, goose liver paté
asparagus, lettuce, artichokes, pork
almonds, oysters, beans, such food
plus a dozen crates of Veuve Clicquot
and a carton of the softest
family strength biodegradable shit paper
you know what food banks are like
providing the best free of charge
otherwise no one would say a prayer
page 117 for that fucked up cage
the late capitalist economy.
Actually, before continuing this poem
I lit the fire, vacuumed the carpet
then drove to the Robbie Burns
where I bought two bottles of wine
talked to a Samoan friend about work
and on the way back posted a letter
to my closest friend in Christchurch.
Once home, I opened a bottle
and very soon, like the BMW
I had no imagination at all
you just climb in and you drive.
Thing is. If you follow our leaders
those lunatics of the level field
on which even the unemployed
can parachute from a worm’s arse
you’ve got to be stuffed
with all kinds of myth
men are rational
pigs can fly
markets have force
wealth trickles down
you certainly can’t be surprised
by mass murder on the farm
let alone a notion so fuzzy
as rising crime rates
they’re a simply a condition
of free fire playing fields.
No matter what they say
no matter what they quote
World Bank reports
Reserve Bank studies
capitalist functionaries
who have written on Sartre
or the existentialists
from the Stock Exchange
when you’re eating flea hearts

page 118

such leaders have as much use
as an ashtray on a motorbike
(and given the way they grip
their feelings, perhaps
better off put against a wall).
Besides, next time we drive
from Christchurch, we’ll start
about 5 am (too early in the day
for the food bank at Ashburton)
and travelling as fast as we can
somewhere on the straights
between Timaru and Oamaru
just as the sun downsizes night
and the breakfast news
restructures mount cook
we’ll turn off to a beach
and though in these latter days
when I smell the sea, I speak
only of quotas and never of hope
amongst the oregon pine
(reams of paper, billions of matches)
in the back seat we’ll find out
if a BMW is really the
ultimate driving machine
bunker of tenderness
it hurts to be separate
free the hungry cage
we burn like firewood

The car we own is a Dodge Charger.
It’s a V8 painted red, and when
the used car dealer took us for a ride
the economy was much worse
than when we bought the BMW