Title: Sport 34

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2006

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 34: Winter 2006

Bill Manhire

page 51

Bill Manhire


The café was called Quebec. We used to go there a lot.

The first time, well, we simply liked the name. They had nothing local, but you could ask for anything else.

In winter they served up hot, brutal stews, which we ate like soup, using a spoon, and there were rough slabs of some home-made nutty bread. It was all new to us. In summer, the desserts were airy, filled with berry fruit, or made with lemon.

Before it was Quebec, it was Kerouac's. Before that, I think it was Fettucine, and before that it was a bookshop, Tom's Exchange. The man who ran it wore a grey dustcoat; he wasn't Tom. Tom was never there.

This was years before we met. As I recall, the days were long and awkward. You could take in a few coins and a couple of old paperbacks, and come back out with something you hoped might change your life.

page 52

The Workshop

I tick the death of Angela's father.
I query the way Fitch fell in love.
Ken has too many sisters; maybe he needs a stronger mother.
Craft, we say. Life. How can we make this better?

The Small Top

It was not so different from the big top. You went past the place with all the elephants and shouting, and there it was. I sat for a while and watched. There were some insects I did not recognise, a half-eaten sandwich, and from time to time the sound of mild applause.

The Embarrassing Party

Her friends are open-mouthed.
The magician makes the small girl lay an egg.
It's not even her party.

page 53


Take back your heart,
that tattooed star. Take back
take back: your this and that, your pale guitar.

Only my harmonica
knows who you are.

Take back the light on the water;
also the body, scar after scar.

There is a list of things—the words
you might have said, etcetera—

long bridge and sky,
the single car,

each syllable and step, particular,
the near and far—
and oh, take back the traveller.

I have this paper music.
I have what remains.
I have what is muscular.

Light in your eyes, beloved,
like air in a mirror. Take back
take back. The bride is leaving America.

Only my harmonica
knows who you are.

page 54


There is a man in our town who thinks everything is delicious. Outside the supermarket, he points at the trolley my wife is wheeling to the car.


Yet he cannot even see what is inside our tightly packed plastic bags! Then, when I am reversing the car, I see him pointing at the long line of empty trolleys which a boy is pushing back to the supermarket entrance.


Yesterday he was standing outside the Shell station beside the small pile of pine saplings which they always sell for Christmas. People take them away in their cars.


I heard that he once went to a lecture up at the university. It was a lecture for first-year students on the earth's magnetic core. When the professor came in and asked for attention…


Sometimes I see him walking with an elderly man near the hospital, and they are talking together in hushed, scurrying voices. But usually he is by himself, outside the cafes and public buildings, calling his single word. He points at a lawyer or a skinhead or a priest waving down a taxi…

page 55

Quite recently I saw him standing with our Mayor, the one who will be thrown out at the next election. I heard her say, 'Peter, why do you always say, "Delicious"?'

But he turned away from her and pointed high into the sky. The whole shape of his body was accusing. Perhaps he felt she had left off the exclamation mark.

'Delicious!' he cried. 'Delicious! Delicious! Delicious!'

page 56


late at night the lake grows just
a little more laconic
like it wants not to want

to say something


moonlight (she says)

like flower, like
lick of water

like le lac


& then the managed river drops away