Title: Sport 14

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, April 1995, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 14: Autumn 1995

Elizabeth Smither

page 110

Elizabeth Smither

From a ha-ha to a cemetery

for David and Beth

How wise to have this unseen ditch between
Our present basking in spring air and
The end. The lines on lines of beloved books
Or beds of stone that climb the hill
And pause at a vista with a yew

Or obelisk, a cross on the horizon
That’s surely not contrived but by being placed
Draws the eye into an accent and wonderment.
How envious I think I am of this
Holding and focusing your binoculars

When a black dog bounds into view
Or a little party comes, dressed in pale colours
To examine and then surround
A minister with a bible. I hold their stillness
In the glass, hardly breathing. Only the words

Are absent. Not ha-ha obviously but
Beloved, that strange deadened word
That covers like an eiderdown
All failings in a nest of feathers.
No one here is not beloved or missed

And if they rose would be instantly kissed
Like Lazarus by his sisters or set down
To eat and drink as we are on the lawn.
I pass the binoculars back. The group
Breaks up, the dog, unconcerned, bounds
Across beloved, beloved and beloved.

page 111

Niagara Falls by Thomas Chambers
19th century American
The Wadsworth Atheneum

In the catalogue it looked less primitive:
A man in moleskins stood on a rock
A forking branch emerged from the water
And the falls fell like a white horse tail

But now it’s arrived in its cylinder
I see there are mistakes made in perspective
And it’s one of those paintings which
The purchaser purchases to forgive the artist

And provide a comment. ‘I was there in ’86
And thought this amusingly captured it
The man in moleskins was nowhere in sight
But helicopters circled looking for barrels:

A repeated student practice. We rode
The Maid of the Mist into the mist
And here, modestly, like the artist I faltered
And thought it was rain wetting my face

Or some cloudburst above roaring’
So now I better understand the painting
The man with no footfall in sight
And the water pouring and pouring.