Title: Sport 28

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, March 2002, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 28: Autumn 2002

Stephanie de Montalk

Stephanie de Montalk

page 90

Style and Completeness

The law maker has posted
his reforms and reinforced
them with public recitations
of his poetry.

Slaves will be freed,
wealth will be measured
in wine, grain and equal
harvests of the soil

and trade in pottery
and olive oil will be increased.

Poverty will end in Attica!

Of course, there are complaints.

His treatment of political issues
is too lengthy,
his vocabulary is too plain,
his view of life too moderate
and optimistic.

‘Where are grief and loss?’
he is asked.
‘The outer limits?
The worst possibilities?

page 91

The gulf between Olympus
and suffering man?’

The law maker is displeased.

He has spent the summer
balancing and refining
his constitution,
abolishing serfdom
and freeing ‘those who…
trembled at their masters' whims’.

‘Why,’ he might have written,
‘must I adjust my Athenian tongue?’

Nonetheless, he tugs at his chiton.

The next day he visits his mother
who welcomes him with
an inventory of the items
she will be taking
to the other side:
scarves, brooches, ribbons,
a hundred pairs of sandals
and soft shoes,
a hundred tunics in wool
and thin linen.

page 92

The law maker looks east and west
and attends to his beard.

‘No one should go down
with more than three
sets of clothing,’ he says.

‘But life is hot, and boring,’
she reminds him.
‘Levitation's impossible,
there's no future in geology,
no change from the coin
we will place in our mouths
for the river man
and little chance the many
headed dog will be persuaded
to fetch and carry.’

‘Then we should all be buried
with board games,’ he replies

and hurries home to

write another elegy,
post another decree
in the market place,

apply himself to message,
metre and couplets
with his customary discretion

and in several striking tongues.

page 93


At the end of the day,
thankful for the river
which scatters the gold leaves
he stretches and pounds

to the green light he beats
between paper and skin

and later, the thin sheets
he places on leather
for the delicate act of cutting,

the artisan acknowledges his small role
in the tableaux of trinkets,
edging and illumination
of manuscripts,

the history of masterpieces
brought to perfection

only to be melted
and mixed easily with water

or upturned beneath
sumptuous and biblical skies,
and his dependence on men

who having tapped rich veins
now breathe slowly
in rectangular rooms.

page 94

He understands that his floor
will recall neither pedestals
nor outstretched hands,

that his anvil has no memory
of clamour.