Title: Sport 31: Spring 2003

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 2003

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 31: Spring 2003



page 95

Accounting Poem

Wonderful blue sky! God took the roof off the house.

Tutankhamon's treasures winked in the sunlight.
The parents exchanged cross words.

Three in the afternoon, a chill on the neck.
Earlier we had great larks in the shed—
Uncle Milt taught us how to cook the books.

Fortunately we had an amateur historian in the family.
She was especially good with date scones.

Lately we'd been badgering her constantly,
What with daylight saving and daylight robbery.

Five intellectual histories of Bulls,
Four anthologies of rural love songs,

Three biographies of James Katherine Muldoon,
Two poems of innocence and economics, and not

One even footnote bloody mention of us!

page 96

Six men, black suited, paced the drive.
We're here for the coffin said the first.

From the parlour, our oldest aunt replied
He's being dressed, won't be long.

Next, someone was screwing on the top—
Deaths big and little on Orchard Lake Road.

Seven years in suburbia. What were you thinking?

Mostly we dreamed of making it big,
Of building pyramids in the desert
Fed by the national grid.

Motley, nightmarish singing,
Shredded pyjamas and such,
Awaking when they screwed off the lid.

Ate too much cake. This is our fate:
The middle class, eating, disorder.

In his later years, joining the church.
Double entry book-keeping,

The life of the soul, the life of the flesh.
Still he was good with his clients,

And good with the children.
Death—accruel accounting.

page 97

Night fell. We left the roof off
and gazed into the TV, through rain.

Rugby. Nothing had changed—
until you looked closely.

Once we owned the stars, the sun, the earth.
Now everything had changed.

Look at us all, dumb as ever,
Sliding down the food chain.

Nobody warned us. Everyone did.

Tentatively, the words emerged. First one
Then the rest, flying from the ark, bat-like
Auditing the rooms, suspending themselves,
Creating new layers of dung.

Eventually, we exhumed our forebears,
Pasted them on donkeys and headed for Eden Terrace.
Coins, old hymns, and small family treasures
Clinked in the sunshine, making rainbows.

Tomorrow, we told ourselves, tomorrow
We'll fire up the tubes on one.

page 98

Dark Days

Our spirits broke in those dark days.
Rain blinded the pre-dawn window,
a blizzard tore at the boards.
In the kitchen, the news stacked up,
a naked bulb swayed in the draft,
shadows threw themselves
against the walls. When we met
our eyes looked elsewhere.
You included the word
‘enigma’ in everything you said.

Laughter came from next door,
young lawyers and their ghostly
friends talked through the night.
When they raised their voices
the conversations grew clearer,
and you reported back banalities
of the judicial life. Once they
spoke of a man who got his eyes
cut out. Or was it his tongue?
Then, too, they were laughing.

page 99

The road twisted through hill country.
Everyone else had long since left.
Quiet at the wheel, I listened to jazz,
wondering what it might mean
to ‘hope against hope’.
The mechanic said our rusted car
was ‘all the lies we tell’.
The past is a rope we haul on,
or does it haul on us? Driving
unmapped roads, we churned the dust.

I was asleep, but still driving.
We had explored a cul-de-sac
which was also the house where,
years back, a friend had lived.
Then you started whistling
funeral music. We reached
the ruins, the broken dreams.
In a strip of pale sunlight,
between pillars, we were
spent ciphers, leaning together.