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Sport 25: Spring 2000

The first lesson

page 5

The first lesson

Now are you going to listen or not? There's nothing tricky about a poem. It's just a collection of words like one of those bunches of grapes that used to hang in the backyard, how every one had a particular shape depending on the way it grew, or like one of those macramé pot-holders Aunty Jean used to make except the words are the knots and at each one you can change direction, or like when mum cooks and some words are like mince and cheap and easy to fill you up with and contain most of what's good for you and those are the ones she uses a lot and some words are spicy so she only uses them a little bit and like some words look so good she uses them for colour and others act differently under heat, cheese for example, to melt all through a poem which is great unless you don't like cheese. Some bits might stick in your teeth for days unless you brush them and I know you don't always do that. Maybe if you think of words like cars on a motorway, how if they are speeding or not being driven carefully they can easily lose control and cause an accident and then another car will hit them and then a truck and before you know it there is a huge pile-up with everyone tut-tutting, well the pile-up can be a poem too. Sometimes you'll even find poems like grandad did with that piece of driftwood which looked like a woman with her legs crossed and if you're lucky no one else has pinched it so you can pick it up off the ground and put your name on it and the ladies at church will wonder why on earth you have that in the garden. It can even be like when you're laying cobblestones and every word fits neatly into the next so that sometimes there's a pattern if you stand back far enough, or if you're laying bricks, how you have to knock words in half to fit them into the page 6 end of sentences so the next layer has something to build onto and all you do all day is look at bricks and when you put your head up there's a whole wall or a house with windows and corners that you're surprised is there and while we're talking about bricks sometimes you can put words together because of the way they look, brown bricks or red bricks or rough bricks or smooth bricks so people can enjoy them like when we go for a drive through Howick and mum likes the colour of the houses, and sometimes you can put them together because they hold things up and are strong and have a use even if no one sees them, bricks don't really have a sound unless you drop them on your foot and then they make a sound that sounds like bloody hell, and sometimes when you read a poem you feel like it doesn't even belong on the paper or that you've seen it before somewhere or should have seen it before or always meant to make one just like it and so if you turn around it will move behind your back, sometimes it's like a child who makes you drop him off up the road from school so his mates won't see you kiss him goodbye and then shoos you away as if to say ‘don't make such a fuss’ but the way I like to think of poems the most is that they are like a lolly for your mind or an argument with a clever person who is always trying to put words into your mouth and then spends the rest of the day trying to take them back out again.