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Sport 35: Winter 2007

Elizabeth Smither

page 107

Elizabeth Smither

Buying a corset with my mother

Here is the shop that still stocks it.
Out slides the drawer and inside is revealed
like a half-body mask, the corset
my mother favours. Scooped in with
satin seams filled with whalebone, a line
of forbidding hooks and eyes, soft cups
for breasts and, below, four dangling suspenders.
Why should she like it? Why will she feel so happy
for the rest of the day, discovering it. Asking
for two of the suits of armour to be packed
in a flat box, then plain brown paper and string.
'Coffee?' she says. 'And cake.' But won't it hurt
I want to say to squeeze coffee and cake behind
that sequence of fastenings? Shouldn't we
start dieting instantly? (I am to be supported by air
and wear light garments.) But we sit eating
butterfly cakes and looking out at the street
where the bodies pass, wondering by what
will or machinery they hold themselves together.

page 108

Cape gooseberry car

Now it's for dirt racing my little
red car will be like a Cape gooseberry
enclosed in its metal frame as the yellow berry
rests in its lantern of filigree.

Not touching the sides, a golden bell
and my car a red steady heart. Its
motor is still strong, it has two newish
tyres. And ancient of ancients, it has a choke.

I did not want to hand it on—brave
heart but weakened body—to anyone
who might crash it, but now
in its cage it can crash to its delight

and still hang there, the golden gooseberry
safe and centred, on all sides surrounded
by the beautiful bell-like space
that protects it as it pounds the earth.

page 109

Margo and Sir Walter

for Margo Buchanan-Oliver

She lives among others but loves Sir Walter
best of all men, presuming she could choose
from all history's pages, up to today
the interpretive and the hazy, equally-weighed.

She loves him in his Tower rooms, writing,
and his evening stroll upon the battlements
his pipe smoke escaping in the London air.
She loves him for going to death over a marriage

an English and a Spanish king arranged
with him as the prize gift. She loves
his request for a knife to stir his wine
and then his abandonment of it for his quill.

She loves—there is no end to the catalogue—
his profile, his beard, his great foxiness
his manliness on his scaffold walk and speech
so if a drop of his divine blood flew

and landed on her dress she would
cut it out in a square and place it
behind glass and in a gilded frame
and draw a heart with Ralegh and her name.

page 110

Tonia, photographer

Endlessly the nervousness. Fear
of the lens, pleading to be taken
unawares in some unicorn beauty
it is her responsibility to discover.
These she photographs brutally.

But those who fit a photographic session
into a day of wider preoccupations
with no concern for double chin or profile
and no flirtation with the lens
these she photographs beautifully.

page 111

In memory of my parents

After their deaths I see them clearer.
The longer gone, the more is revealed.
Details I had no hope of knowing
now open like an Advent calendar's doors
sprinkled with glitter and bright promises.

What they hid from my learning lest it might harm
now becomes the morals they were showing
until I think nobility is a white bone
deep in the earth under a named covering
where my latest frail flowers reside
and go to their dying with an equal pride.