Title: Sport 14

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, April 1995, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 14: Autumn 1995

Kimberley Rothwell

page 40

Kimberley Rothwell

She Takes His Hand

and stores it as her hostage.
The newness of his stump
surprises him.
He mourns the loss of his
familiar tool,
his immediate touch.

When he wakes,
he slices
the newness from his face
and goes to spend his day
under a false sun.
He leaves his smell
in the sink.

He puts his finger
under her chin
and lifts it so she
frowns at the sun.
He takes her eyes
and holds them prisoner
in his dark and dustless pocket,
where, with his one hand
he juggles them
through his fingers.

page 41

Flirting with the Husband of Death

The feeling boils
acidic, ulcerous.
If it could, it would
consume me,
would lay me down
with a kiss on the cheek.
I catch it peeping,
waiting in doorways
ready to sing my requiem.

I tell it, Do your stuff.

Once I came so close
I though my heart would
refuse me in a red explosion.
I begged, When will it stop?
Will it always be like this?

Come on, show me.

The gun, knife, rope
they have strength,
the warm
hug of gas
eyes me delicately.
It tells me I was born
to do the dying swan dance.

I don’t think I have it in me.
I don’t think I can peel myself
back to that pure and thumping black.

page 42


The illness has come to meet you,
and you take its hand.

First you have to condense
everything you want to say
into this last night.
I think you are panicking,
although as you pack this suitcase,
you are rehearsing, preparing.
There is an urgency in your mouth.
Now time is finite,
can be measured
by a shadow on the lung.

page 43

Notes From the Elastic Memory

1. 36 Arthur Street

The sun is bored.
It grows heavy and orange
and drowns itself in the horizon.

A hawk rises clumsily
from a tree,
cursing those that disturbed it,
its black print frayed at the edges.

The girl has left her thought here,
mingled with the crispness of
the evening’s ghost,
mingled with the pictures
she glances at in memory.
Dandelions grow like a meadow
and she hides in every sticky petal.

When my family had worn themselves into the house, we left it and let your family fill it up. I was not aware of ‘things’ then, thinking that when we visited again the rooms would be the same. My body changed the whole place for me, it grew up and cannot hold my little-girl nostalgia so convincingly. I say the house looks smaller, but it is me who is bigger, and I have no words to account for this strangeness.

I left my first conscious thought on the doorstep of that house; staring at my scraped knee and blue sneaker, my mother called my name. I remember the grey concrete footpath and my dirty laces but they blur into other pictures, and are ultimately never as clear as this one.

page 44

2. Visiting

The house is a set of gates,
and you sit uneasy
in your chair
squashed by clothes
in a shrunken body.

You have other companions:
glass of water
and a tissue
and us
cross-legged on the floor
in the white-curtained room.

The children wander
with teddy-bear eyes
lost in the legs of visitors.

You say that word
you say Cancer
and it comes out of your mouth
like a black-glassed friend,
another companion to perch on your arm.

3. Beyond Time

Nobody knows I am like this. If I open my mouth and let people look down my throat, they will see the black of me, they will see I have no colour and if I turn myself inside out I will completely disappear.

Inside you is colour. You have it in your voice, I think that it is red, like the bleeding of an oak tree.

Beyond time is sleep and the swollen atmosphere of Goodbye. Finality. Incoherence. The cancer is approaching its end, it crept at first, afraid page 45 someone might see it and stop it, but now it is arrogant and it runs, it stamps, it pokes out its tongue. Still it is reaching its end and it has not won and it will not win so long as the children come and go and an oak tree wears just that shade of red.

I have a photo of a friend at home, and in the background is a man sitting at a desk, leaning over, writing. He is smudged out of recognition, but I know his beard and his turquoise shirt. I don’t look at the precise focused image of my friend, but at the man, writing, the blur that is not meant to be there.

One day I will have blurred your memory until it is as blurred as your picture. Each time I think of you and dredge up an image of your face, it augments a little more. I am only allowed to remember it a certain number of times. My memory is not a film or a photo, but is elastic and changes shape every time I put it on.

4. Beyond Death

Five seagulls flew over in a group, I looked up and their wing-beats cooled my eyes. And I asked ‘where are you now?’

I leave that thought there, with you looking at it, a little puzzled, unsure of where to put your mouth.