Title: Sleeper

Author: John Dickson

In: Sport 17: Spring 1996

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 1996, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Verse Literature

Conditions of use



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Sport 17: Spring 1996


page 15


on my birthday, the Angel had questions
your performance to date, your career path.
And when he'd finished, I said, Angel
we've been through all this before.
I have everything I need, a desk, a chair
paper and pen. And though I sometimes
hear voices murmuring in the next room
like old people who have lost their past
it's no problem: there's no discrepancy
between what's said and what I hear.
And the view is simply splendid.
Every night, after I close the blinds
the bush splits open the wooden houses
and plank by plank takes them back;
and every morning, the houses are there again
waiting for you to raise the dead.
As for my work, it's obvious to me
you haven't read the job description
you yourself wrote. Must I remind you now?
And since you've asked, I know nothing
about life in history, whether it goes round
and round in a great returning circle
(better rise above it friend
otherwise you will drop right through)
or whether like some vast machine
it moves towards a predetermined end
(better join it friend, otherwise
you will get left behind), for all I know
may be everything that happens
happened in a p resent time so vast
page 16 it's the size of the universe and twice as fast
walk past a gallipoli veteran
and troy burns once more, a storm
may be blowing from paradise
piling wreckage upon wreckage
before your feet, and with such force
you can never close your wings
thermopylae, rwanda, my lae
yellow tiger, hitler, pol pot
I know nothing about such things
or what can be done for human good
but if I've heard you right, I should go back
and help bring meaning to their carnage.
Angel, who are you kidding?
I'm not an unsuspecting tenor from Oklahoma
singing, Oh what a beautiful morning.
When I wake in my room, I'm nothing
but a shadow on a wooden wall
a minor bureaucrat amongst the angelic orders.
I write reports. I follow instructions
here and there correcting a comma.
I've no need to change eternity
for a place full of colour and life
but where word and thing are not the same.
Leave them to it, they have your gift
the structural unreliability of freedom.
And as for having answers.
Such debauchery of the soul!
Mountains are mountains, rivers are rivers
and my face is just my face.
Your choice, he said, and I went back
to my small room and fell fast
into a deep and wakeful sleep