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Sport 38: Winter 2010

Ten Blue Bottles

page 183

Ten Blue Bottles


Regret is stacked against my wall like a winter's wood. Each night I burn a memory.

I lost my sons' years in a forest.

The sound of the grandfather clock leaks through holes in my slippers. It breaks each moment in two.

The lesser half ticks.

In the interval before each tock I listen for the echo of the axe, the sound of wood chips in the air.

II Insomnia

On bad nights I used to visit my pet dragon. She lived in the cave at the back of my head. On her breath I could warm my hands. Her scales were green as old copper.

One day she vanished and in her place I found a cold penny. Under a wooden sky I spent it on silence.

In the distance a carpenter builds a box the size of me.

The nails are like unspoken stars.

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III Demons

I have two dogs. Both are as black as widows.

One barks at the new moon as if it were a bone. The other does Sudoku to fill the hungry space that surrounds him.

Last night clouds spilt a matrix of stars into their bowls. The dogs' sleep rattled with the sound of broken teeth.

IV The neighbour

In the morning the radio clears its throat. The air fulminates with the debris of the world.

I disappear under a cloud of duvet. In one hand a pen in the other a shovel.

I bury my shredded prophecies in earth black as the Old Testament. They are gifts to the season and the worms, which recite and gnaw them chapter and verse.

Over the fence my neighbour is digging around, her eyes green as seed potatoes thrown under a hedge of hair. They stare at the freshly dug funereal earth. Her lipstick is molten lava.

Her fork carries fire as if it were a gift from God.

Both of us wait for the eruption of spring.

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V How to Talk to Beans

In the lazy afterglow of a day dizzy with warmth and rain I sit in my garden and consider how to talk to beans.

They are so young yet, like sons, green and climbing on the framework poor parenthood built.

I try to guide them on the direct route to the sky but they weave their own leafy path, listen to the words of the air, bound only by the syntax of the soil.

I do not have the language of beans — the words that would call them to flower.

VI Propositional Calculus

The teacher goes to war. Each morning he packs his sandwiches of sarcasm. His classroom is as dark as the soul of a camera. With pinhole eyes the students view an inverted world. At night his hunger fumbles for the shutter of sleep.


The logic of snow forms a white syllogism on the peaks.

The law has been if p then q.

He has wobbled off the narrow white line.

Now if not p then not q.


She is the colour of chalk. A kind of algebra dressed in short skirts. As she approaches his red ink quickens. He is as serious as spectacles and his mouth forms a little 'o'. It is apparent that the equation they are writing has no solution.

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VII The Trap

One day my parents-in-law visited.

They were Scots who wore their origins like tartan. Jock's rough hands held the enduring lines of years at the works while Agnes gripped the domestic kitty. Time with her felt heavier than the mortgage.

I was resourceful and educated. Neither of which was sufficient to unravel the silent text that was scrawling between us.

It was autumn, the time when the field mice visited our kitchen, seeking a softer world.

One evening as we settled around the hearth the trap I had set sprang. I rose to dispose of the catch but astonishingly the trap lay empty. I reset it only to witness a repeat performance.

The third time Jock set the trap. Minutes later it sprang again. He returned to the lounge with a mouse dangling by its tail between his finger and thumb.

'You don't need a BA to catch mice,' he said. Agnes glowed with secret knowledge.

VIII Matinée

At dawn, when the sun flowed uphill and the trawlers set off like spiders to cast their webs, the seagull's wings creaked. In its beak a blue ceramic fish looked bewildered.

In my lover's eyes, yesterday sits like a broken chair. Trees lose their leaves when she looks at them.

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I am a carpenter faced with a constructive dilemma. My hands know timber. My hunger grows rings while I wait.

The truth table trembles on its binary legs.

As she chews on the apple in my throat I think of the one that got away.


My head is a rock on the Cartesian plane. The fences that know the wind and rain are forever.

As the farmer ploughs he sows his simple thoughts in the horizon's furrow.

In their overturned land the field mice debate the end of the world.

X Einstein's theory of happiness

I sit at the table talking to a bowl of fruit.

The window is open. In flies a kiss. Its wings are notes from the violin player next door. When she plays her back is a bow.

I give the kiss the attention it deserves.

I am happy in my aim.

The apple blushes.