Sport 40: 2012
Hera Lindsay Bird
He walks through the suburb. Someone tightening a blue skin of tarpaulin over a trailer. An old woman walking her dogs. He nods at her as he passes, to let her know that he is on her side, in the general scheme of things. He crosses the street. An alarm coming from a car nobody is trying to break into.
Birds going off like sirens. Sirens going off like sirens too. Up ahead, road workers in reﬂective vests are taking the road apart, and putting it back together again. The man directing the trafﬁc holds up a light. Green, the universal colour for go.
The mountain is a landform created by the collision of lithospheric plates. The mountain rises above the surrounding land in a peak formation. The mountain is measured by these criteria: elevation, volume, relief, steepness, spacing and continuity. People take photographs of the mountain. People show the photographs of the mountain to other people, and say, ‘Look at the mountain.’ We want to believe that the mountain will keep us safe. But the mountain will not keep us safe. The mountain has no central nervous system. The mountain looks like it’s wearing a white hat. The mountain is covered in snow. The mountain is covered in people who are covered in snow. These people have died on the mountain. Love is a landform created by the collision of lithospheric plates. Love rises above the surrounding land in a peak formation. Love is measured by these criteria: elevation, volume, relief, steepness, spacing and continuity. People take photographs of love. People show the photographs of love to other people, and say, ‘Look at love.’ We want to believe that love will keep us safe. But love will not keep us safe. Love has no central nervous system. Love looks like it’s wearing a white hat.
Here is a mountain, small enough to sit in the palm of your hand. It has physical properties. It is snowing delightfully. This mountain has a cave and the cave is ﬁlled with bats. The bats are smaller than cashews but they can still ﬂy admirably.
Will this mountain grow? It will grow to enormous proportions. The bats inside this mountain will grow until they are large as aeroplanes and just as kind. The mountain’s seeds will be carried by the resident bats to desirable locations.
The bats must be very careful when selecting a place to plant. There are many predators that feed on young mountains. They are vulnerable and nutritious. Bats must take care to avoid open spaces such as deserts, moors and carparks.
We’re just crazy about these bats. They ﬂy enormous distances, but they cannot sustain the weight of their own bodies for long. When they have found a good place, they dig a shallow hole and plant the seed. When they die, their bodies decompose and become fuel for the mountain. Soon they vanish entirely, leaving us asking; was that it? Where do we go from here? Can I have the last two minutes of my life back please? How can we be certain the moon won’t fall out of the sky and crush us all as we sleep?
I am a vulnerable yet career-focused FBI agent and you are a Viking time traveller. I am a single middle-aged lawyer and you are the ghost of John Lennon. I am a social-climbing Mormon and you are a suicidal weapons expert. I am professor of archaeology at Stanford and you are homeless. I am a kindergarten teacher and you are the leader of a cult. I am a young female police ofﬁcer struggling to succeed in a male-dominated world and you are my dead brother. I am a well-endowed forensic scientist and you are the second coming of Jesus. I am a young Iranian widow and you’re an angry pensioner. I am a virgin who can speak to the dead and you are my socially awkward barber. I am a sexy divorcee and you are the most powerful wizard of all time. I am the victim of a car crash and you are my graverobber. I am a kind-hearted stripper and you are Nietzsche. I am an erotic novelist and you are an acerbic and emotionally unavailable lawyer at the height of your profession. I am a free-spirited organic chemist and you are a Republican congressman. I am a beautiful young physicist and you are a disappointment to your parents. I am an emotionally vulnerable young woman who is unwilling to trust and you are a schizophrenic bodybuilder. I am a pathological liar and you are everything I ever wanted.
In poems you can do anything you like. You can start ﬁres, or break the law. You can break the law by starting ﬁres. You can set ﬁre to the house of your worst enemy. In poetry, you can have worst enemies. In real life, I don’t really have any worst enemies. There’s that dickhead at the salad bar who always puts walnuts in my salad, and there was that girl who used to ring me up and scream at me, but I’ve got a new phone number now and as much as I hate the salad guy, I’d like to think that I’m a conscientious citizen who wouldn’t intentionally try to burn his house down. Besides, I don’t have his address. But I’m totally onto you, salad bar guy! In poems you can make out with whoever you like, even if they died forever ago. In poems you can say,
‘Oh Abraham Lincoln, kiss me harder.’ I have a friend who is angry at poetry because he says it makes life more beautiful than it really is, which is a stupid reason to hate anything. Hating poetry because it makes life more beautiful is like hating ketchup on your burger because it makes your burger more delicious than it really is, or hating the swans on the lake, for making the lake seem more peaceful. Fuck off swans! How am I supposed to make an accurate emotional assessment of the lake with you gliding around all serene? Sometimes all I want is to read poems that feel a bit more like real life. Something a little bit directionless and frightened. Something without any literary subtext, or clever double meanings. Clever double meanings are like those magic eye puzzles that were popular in the nineties. You can get really good at seeing them, but in the end you’re still the arsehole sitting in the library at lunchtime saying ‘I can’t believe you guys can’t see the fucking dolphins’ to no one, because your friends have all gone outside to do something way more awesome. Sometimes all I want is the poet to come clean and say, ‘I have no idea what I’m talking about.’ Sometimes in a poem I want to just list some good things that I like. The solar system. The names of lipsticks. Poached eggs and mushrooms on a little stack of potato cakes. Houses. Satellites. Swamps and the monsters who live in them. The internet.