Title: Sport 20

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, March 1998, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 20: Autumn 1998

James Norcliffe

James Norcliffe

page 33

the assassination of Marion du Fresne

dessine après Meryon

the canvas had been gifted
spread out like a picnic rug
almost dèjeuner sur sail
a sail lifting the women's
breasts lifting as the trees
and the crewmen looked away
towards the sailing dinghy
limp in a nibbling bay

there was a three-cornered
hat conveniently scattered
on the ground
the trees leaned
from a wreath of smoke
drifting towards the scene

it was a moment frozen
a stopped clock
twelve figures
circled around the moment
in the act of supplication
a confusion of giving and receiving

later the sky would be filled
with charging cavalry
and the tumbling clouds
would disgorge riders
page 34 who would descend to
find fine buildings
spacious boulevards
and cobblestones

2 the judgement of Paris
after the instant the numbers
would have peeled off the clock
but for the moment all is tableau

Marion unaware of the declension
from maiden to skulking demon

the food proffered
the adze raised

Marion unaware of the axis
between sustenance and death
passing through his head

sits in state like a hospital patient
in the midst of a visit by goddesses

a curtain hangs on the strange
pillars of judgement on the flimsy
pallisade guarding the bay

near the twisted driftwood
and the contorted trees

Marion sitting frozen under a sky
of stone between life & death
& the distance between them

page 35

so there were demons
but no reason to ask why
Marion was no angel
there was that business
in Van Diemen's Land

pickets of ribbonwood
how could they help?
any more than the
garrison could save
Lieutenant Meryon
from the Akaroa clap
and horses in the sky

4 famous last words
the names murmuring
together merci merci
merci the little waves
mumbling at the shore
the wind shifting the leaves
this way that way this

what is there more
to say at the end but
thank you thank you

page 36


they built the walls
stone by heavy stone
and paved a zigzag
of climbing pathways

the trees they planted
were exotic: olives
with leaves of silver
yellow-fruited loquats

they danced upon their
crazy paving until the
cassette faded into a
scratch of repeated static

this should be located
much more precisely:
add an estuary a slow-moving
grey river sandbanks a bridge

at nights light would
run yellow in the water
and beyond the spit
the immensity of ocean

they could not have known
how the stones would float
into the air the pathways
unwind like broken spools

and all their photographs
run yellow and roll
over and over and over

page 37

disney fingers

in the freezer we have
chicken frankfurters
all the way from Denmark

they thaw into a softness
into a precooked pinkness
the cat will only prod

the generous Danes
provide ten to a packet
they are violinists’ hands

or I see them bend into
delicate bridge for a sliding cue
and I hear the click of balls

it is enough to make me
grill seven and I share
them disproportionately

three for you four for me
and three for the bench
where they lie waiting

like disney fingers
one for each nostril
and one left over

page 38

without seasons

the empty chair
was an accusation

the desk bereft
was a tidy reproach

the stray paper clips
could not have known that

this was a day of the world
all twenty four hours of it

that beyond the double glazing
every leaf had been washed clean

each vein was beaded
with brightness and the hills
shone with the light upon them

here the minutes passed like
water over dark stones
into slow moving hours

and those who were left
attended to the important
business of their fingernails

it was put about that he had been
bullied and he had been bullied

he had worn the cricket tie
the Welshman had brought back from Lords
but he had had no summer to hope for

page 39

all his days had been
just like all his days

he had said sex for the photographer
but his eyes had looked the other way

Diabelli Variations

I love
this music

it laughs at

it mocks

I play it

& over
& over