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Sport 35: Winter 2007

Sarah Jane Barnett

page 39

Sarah Jane Barnett

At Lake Tekapo

the sheep dog,

the church.

Be careful
on the icy steps

you might break your

See the lake
take your breath—

a comment
is best.

Under the eyes of god
I hear your voice

snap like
skipping stones.

page 40

Head to head

On the day she hovered in the lounge,
still wet in her classical French raincoat

and asked Are you a virgin?

I sat cross-legged on the floor,
homework abandoned.

I fly home at Easter, she makes coffee.

We walk around the garden, finger lancewoods,
wonder what the weather is brewing.

When we reach the gash where my tree,
lithe, silvery limbed, should be

she says It needed to come down,
we had the professionals in.

page 41

The Magician's Assistant

I am tied in knots
for the crowd's pleasure—

pulled through holes
and loops,

fed a scarf
until it runs through me.

I sharpen a collection of knives
on the wheel,

produce a rabbit
with an effortless flourish,

step smiling
into a cupboard

that will always remain

page 42


In the town,
streets are vacant.

Power pylons squat
in the surrounding paddocks,
their weight on the landscape.

A one horse town some called it,
until a documentary starred
an anorexic girl—

at school,
in her kitchen,
as she scraped her plate—

beside a mirror in her swimwear
the male reporter showed viewers
she had no idea of herself.

page 43


At dusk the palm
is a streak of dye,

a suggestion against a sky
smacked blue with crows.

A girl, colonial
in a white pinafore,

strings garlands
of clothes on the line.

The lake rests with
its back to the dam,

in the shallows a man
curves water over a cow,

smiles at me—

a white woman
draped on the rocks;

a predictable wonder,
a chargeable item.

page 44



We discuss the paintings of St Sebastian.
In the first he finds respite against a tree,
face passive, one leg forward
and halo jaunty.

You note that his mane of hair looks soft—
like lamb's down.
I say he could leave at any time,
the bindings loose on his womanly wrists,
the arrows just a Halloween joke.

When we examine the second painting
you unconsciously draw back
from the anguish:
his body is crumpled towards the viewer,
face like wet clay,
the arrows a brutal compass.

page 45


I step from my robe
onto the platform.
The teacher swivels lights
and talks about tonality.

As the room heats
a bead of sweat runs slowly
from an armpit down my bare breast,
a distracting tickle.

I focus on faces—
an older man with square glasses,
a slim woman with shapely lips.

At the break I walk the line
of drawings—my eyes stare back
with ten different expressions.

I accuse myself, I am wistful;
in one sketch
the emotion is elusive.