Title: Sport 23: Spring 1999

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 1999

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 23: Spring 1999

James McNaughton

James McNaughton

page 164

Survival of the Startled

According to Carl Sagan,
waking up suddenly with the sensation of falling is called the
‘startle reflex’
—a hangover from our ancestors
who lived in trees

and found it salubrious
to wake up before they hit the ground.

These days, when not falling
out of prehistoric trees, I like to hang out
with Keith Richards.

Recently we had a game of darts
while two nude girls sat side
by side on a green couch, watching us
with lust in their hearts.

The other night I was Chief
Executive at Disney for a few painful minutes.
The other executives resented me,
particularly Michael Eisner
—a great bear of a man
with a crown of curly locks.

page 165

And one night I went swimming naked
with Joan Collins
in the Newlands Primary School pool.
She stayed down at the shallow end
doing the crawl,
keeping her hair dry,
while I swam around the middle.

Yes, it was a wet dream,
and a strange inheritance from my ancestors,
whose sleeping astral bodies may
still be being swept out
of dreams by the trunks of astral mammoths.

Leonard Meteor Shower

A slice of fire catches
the corner of my eye.

Only a cigarette butt
cartwheeling to its apex, hung
and taken back along the sea-breeze.

A door shuts, an engine
starts. Someone else has
had enough.

page 166

Zorba the Palestinian

Has 600 pancakes to prepare in one
small pan for a bar mitzvah.

An organ concerto comes out of the
radio, fills the empty kibbutz kitchen.

He leans back, smoke in the corner
of his smile, eyes closed in rapture.

He lifts the pan and tips
out the first overtime paying pancake.

Five hundred and ninety nine to go.
One cake at a time, sweet Allah!

page 167


The wind means something
to lavender. A blues riff doesn't.

Between scones and black forest
gateau stretches a tightrope.

You try to make the main course, you make
a meal of your life. I'd like

a grant to spend at least five
minutes on every park bench in New Zealand.

I could sleep under the moon's continuous
poem, find lines like

money in the street,
throw them away in the morning.

If you gave me anything
I'd keep it.

page 168

Till Someone Loses an Eye

I was woken by my flatmate's
alarm. Her room lies across

from mine, and her alarm is a meditative
tape by an Indian Guru. His thickly

accented evocation of bubbling
brooks and Places

of Peace went on
and on as she slept off her

late night. I told my friend Giovanni
about this, and he suggested the violent

drowning of the Guru in one of his
Series Of Still Pools. He told me

that a German company in Italy
marketed an alarm that was voice

neutralised. The TV ad had eager
people in pyjamas sitting up

and chirping, ‘OK Mr Brown!’
to stop it beeping, then

bounding out of bed. A friend of Giovanni's,
whose mother bought one, regularly shouted,

page 169

‘Shut the fuck up!’ through the bedroom wall, while
she slept through everything.

Anyroad, I'd been following a young, sprightly,
and occasionally goofy Ed

Hillary around Te Papa on his first
visit there. (It was closed to the public,

like Disneyland for The Prince Of
Pop.) I was trying to jot down the great

man's impressions
as he dictated them to me, when I came

across someone representing Bill
Rowling sitting at a Formica table

in the kitchen. Seeing as we
were back in time, I knew

that he was dying. He had a terrible,
pale, dirty

brown complexion. Dreams are
in colour. I asked ‘Bill’ as he rose

in greeting, how he was
going. He said, ‘Not too bad,’

in a wise Indian accent,
and he meant it.