Title: Sport 31: Spring 2003

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 2003

Part of: Sport

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Sport 31: Spring 2003



page 103

Swinging London

Bob Dylan dot com is really useful
you say from the edge of the bed
closing that LP-sized serving door to the kitchen.

Sleeping in the dining room
the two-way drawer enables us
to reach in the night for a spoon.

When at last you leave the waking
pillow you go to swinging London
its hospitable mews and leaf-bare trees.

Your dream is black and white
but you know the colour of people's hair
which often proves important to the story.

There's an anecdote happening somewhere off screen:
a recovered wig, a cigarillo
and the kindness of a customs officer.

And your dream is like a word
for which there isn't a word
in English, like the word that means

the way the orange light comes in the bathroom window.
You in London with its miniskirt thighs
my toes, queen bees on the hexagon tiles.

page 104

The watch

I found myself in Planet Spice
reading a publication
devoted solely to watches.

For us lovers of timepieces it said
one of the key pleasures is seeing Bond utilise his watch
to escape from highly dangerous situations.

You did not use your watch to that purpose.
If we had been in America it would have ticked
on the nightstand

as it was it was not too close
still within reach
its black straps like arms

folded behind its face
or the formal costume of a magician.
It held time within it.

In Watch magazine every male model gazed
hand on chin, at the camera
the most important face

gleaming on his arm. He was a gangster
he was a player of football he was—most of all—
truly international.

And when the magazine
reached the height of its powers
it looked at the watch De Niro wore in Italy

page 105

his brown suit, brown cap and arm
his bottle of Grappa
and his friend with the shotgun

and the time on the face was five forty-five
which was the time the watch said
when we held it above the bed:

it can't possibly be morning.

Russian Caravan Tea

Don't know why but I'm feeling so sad
said the walkman.

We had dangled its tiny earpiece
over the mouth of a plastic champagne flute

this was our stereo
the stillness of the wooden caravan.

I long to try something I've never had
Billie Holiday was singing

and we could hear her well enough
under the silent stars.

page 106

Once you had died and we had done those things—
visited the apricot room

and smoked our mouths to hot
caves—I went under the knife.

The anaesthetic took me down
and surgeons pulled the very eyes from my head.

When I came to the world was in the wrong place
and the wrong place was me.

In a photograph you are eating muesli
with your feet in the water of the Hokianga.

I stood behind with the camera
called your name, Mark

look back, I said
look back over your shoulder.

page 107

Six weeks

Six weeks was all that remained of my life.
In apartment number three I farewelled
the young Prince William who had visited
bringing a plastic bag of half-finished cigarettes.
I considered restarting the habit in my last days
but decided against it, based on the smell.

Walking along the beach with everyone
I ever knew, I noted a number
of sweet, humble cottages, went on ahead
(past even my mother, who led the procession)
to be alone and sob for the fact. I felt sorry
for my friend: to lose first her son and then me.

What was it? you asked in the morning,
what were you dying of? and I felt the word swoop
into my mouth the way a bird flies across the sun.
Oh, it was cancer, I said,
and folded my arms over my chest
like the heavy wings of an angel.