Title: Work Station

Author: James Brown

In: Sport 36: Winter 2008

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2008

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Verse Literature

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Sport 36: Winter 2008

Work Station

page 154

Work Station

If I had a window, I would look out of it.
The sun's reflections on puddled concrete
would brighten my eyes.

The woman planting a kiss
would remind me of touch and spring growth
and the daily importance of clichés.

And the man with groceries
trying to cross the road to his family
would no longer escape my attention.

'Look,' I would announce,
'there is his youngest daughter, who has knelt down
to help him tie his shoelace.'

page 155

The Glistener

I glisten to people all day.
Everything they say is true.
By night I am beside myself.

Eventually, the house across the street goes silent.
In the head hours, I go outside and look about me.
The moon lowers its fine mesh fabric over the suburb.
Condoms prevent STDs, but they break the dream.
Plus, you know what's going to happen next.

Once, I made love to a woman I didn't care for.
Once, I spat at someone
and was thrown to the ground.
Once, I called my youngest child a nuisance.

'Action causes more trouble than thought.'
I am tiny in starlight.

page 156

Click Here for Title

'Reality is merely that which you can be persuaded of'
announced my frightening but ineffectual Lit Crit lecturer one day.
I wasn't convinced. Back then, which of us was?
A leggy, sophisticated classmate, with an almost ugly mouth
that I thought beautiful (though I knew even then
that was a cliché of romantic fiction), smiled conspiratorially.
Am I on the inside looking out or the outside looking in,
is a non-question I still ask myself. Also, why is my poetry
so prosy? She seemed so together, but years later
had some sort of breakdown. By then poetry
was running round my head like marbles over linoleum.
The twentieth century departed.
I thought there was nothing I could do.
Money can buy what you want,
but it can't buy wanting it.

page 157

James Brown Is Dead

People think James Brown is dead,
but you know different. You know
he's actually alive and well
and living in Island Bay with a
forty-something-year-old woman and two children.
After all those years of horsing around,
it seems he's finally settled down.
He still works hard enough though
—contractual obligations and a regular gig
at Te Papa. He says he likes its attitude
to taonga.
He never mentions his past achievements.
He enjoys music, though his tastes
aren't exactly what you'd expect.
What's that tune he's always humming?
All in all, he seems pretty happy.
The old energy must still be there
somewhere, because he cycles everywhere.
You can see him on his bike most days
and, if you count him in, he might
flash you a smile and
dance on his pedals
in a most immodest fashion.

page 158

The Tuba Player in Rhyme

Considered too inept for cornet, the fat boy had
the big bashed ham thrust into his fists
in a cruel twist of role reversal one bleak
ham-handed afternoon at band practice…

Like an asthma sufferer with a giant inhaler,
the tuba player staves off failure…
swaying and suckling against the flank,
as if trying to drain a water tank.

With bodywork from rent-a-dent
and panel-beaten tone well bent,
oompah, oompah down the mall
—no one's listening to you, pal.

Dreams of jazz and old-time swing
do not come to anything.
The suite for tuba, goat and sot
took people's breath away—or not.

From the rear, a gaudy flarting
and the tuba player's flat feet smarting
behind striding girls and baton flings
and violinists in the spring.