Sport 29: Spring 2002
How sudden, this entering the fallen
gardens for the first time, to feel the blisters
of the world's father, as his own hand
does. It is everything dying at once,
the slimed pond and the riffling of leaves,
shoes drenched across sapless stalks.
It is what you will read a thousand times.
You will come to think, who has not stood
there, holding that large hand, not said
Can't we go back? I don't like this place.
Your voice sounds like someone else's. You
rub a sleeve against your cheek, you want
him to laugh, to say, ‘The early stars can't hurt
us, they are further than trains we hear
on the clearest of nights.’ We are in a story
called Father, We Must Get Out.
Leaves scritch at the red walls,
a stone lady lies near the pond, eating
dirty grass. It is too sudden, this
walking into time for its first lesson,
its brown wind, its scummed nasty
paths. You know how lovely yellow
is your favourite colour, the kitchen at home.
You touch the big gates as you leave,
the trees stand on their bones, the shoulders
on the vandaled statue are huge cold
eggs. Nothing there wants to move.
You touch the gates and tell them, We
are not coming back to this place. Are we, Dad?
In one of those games when you're asked
‘What would you be if you weren't human?’,
my sister says a silverfish. I'm certain
she thinks it a kind of metallic creature
with scales slanting reflection in moonlight
thick as paste. My brother would be a dashboard
on a car with dials in the satinwood that porthole
horizons of posh. I say a plate of nectarines
left out on a table in the yard beneath the willows,
and when it was morning they'd feel wet
as touching the sea. The grown-ups said
that's the nicest, that is, not knowing
my lack of invention, my desperate need to say
something, so that's what I said, although
silverfish and dashboard were excellent I thought
as stars, and all I could think of were those dumb
nectarines, the last thing I'd seen when called
to come in, and I thought whoever
it was left them out like that, will they cop it,
whatever their story is to cover up.
It never stops in the famous story
does it, the wind, the wind?
It is there
when the book is shut, pelting
the house's walls, pushing the pines
the wrong way, making the girl's
skirts flounce like the edges
of the streamed clouds, her heart
riding the wind.
No wonder the sea
rings, throws salt at her lips,
the street tilts its deck
beneath the bright, flung stars.
Open the book, only that
will stop it. Open the book
to let her through.
The word had got round, ‘The gods are back.’
Some kid better known for lies than good sense
came in shaking from smoking near the lake,
‘This joker,’ he said, ‘looking real dirty at me
then I saw he was only halfway, like.
The rest of him was goat. Jesus,’ he said,
and his father clipped him one. ‘A bit of respect,’
the old man demanded, ‘you foul-mouthed young
prick!’ Next thing a librarian said this hunk
bigger than Rambo limps into Reference,
‘You'd think he'd been cleaning flues,’ she said,
‘his arms were that black.’ And he says he's
after Blacksmiths, anything she's got. So she
hands him one down from a high shelf
and pretty near tumbles. There he is! this
same bloke made of brass on the cover—
‘Should have seen the shield,’ he said,
‘that galoot went and lost.’ Monsignor
Fox, seventy and revered, still into
his Latin that's how out of touch, he's
walking behind the Lourdes grotto down
from the convent and this woman steps out
starkers, he'd read as a student of course
about goblets moulded on Aphrodite's
breasts, about men seared by her romping
at them through surf—and there's the old fellow
grabbing at roses, dropping his glasses,
not giving a sacristan's toss for the thorns
etching his wrists, he's strewing the summer
as she steps up lightly, laughing, he laughs
back, he says ‘Jesus!’ like that boy did
only no one there to tick him off.
So it went. Lightning flashed half the afternoon
and mums advising Just don't talk to it, then,
never mind how nice the swan feels; say
No if the white bull offers his back,
plushy makes no difference. They wandered about
not as if they owned the place because
they knew they didn't, but more or less
at ease, that was the thing, as if we'd
been away and come back and they
implied, That's all right then, you're always
welcome. Water tasted sharper for a week
or two, we found we watched the sky
a lot more than we used, we touched
trees and rocks and felt them like it. Music
was fragrant everywhere without your
knowing where, no one clicked sex on the Net,
there was that too. Everyone had their
story. Oh the flatness the morning the leaves
didn't quiver near the lake, when ‘Miss Rosa’
as we called her no longer splashed out,
when the bull wasn't in sight and the swan
flown and the pretty guy with the strung
bow didn't wow them at the bus stop.
Remember, that's what it comes to now,
about the saddest word we've used—
when you think how many there were, how
every corner was in bloom, if you know
what I mean. When the word got round.
He gets tinier. He gets better.
Soon we shall not see him.
The best in the world.
The last reality, so singularly one's own—
the half-filled glass, the fingered sheet,
the glint of uneasy light along a blind
at dawn: the intensity, we suppose,
of everything that fades:
and for others,
for ourselves standing, observing
the dwindled circle and the solitary
friend; the drama, we tell ourselves, seen out
to its extent, its parabola eased down,
the lights on the curtain as the fading gong
resounds: omega, we call it, tigers
for opera that we are, who insist the line
is completed, faced with broken lines …
our fantasy of fulfilment, chanting simply,