Title: Sport 40: 2012

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2014, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 40: 2012

Michael Hulse

page 140

Michael Hulse

Quod Scripsi Scripsi

European Translators’ College, Straelen

All these dictionaries!—in passageways, the TV room, everywhere!—
anywhere you might suddenly need to know
the something-else for something. Serbian-Icelandic,
Spanish-Croat, English-Thai, Tibetan-German. So many beautiful
flurries and blizzards and sandstorms of words. So many
weatherly ways of getting lost
in the world. So many
wuthering seductions. Lingua’s
a woman, of course. Of course she has a way
of wearing high heels for a trek through the veldt.
She says, ‘Did you bring a map?’
It’s hot. She hitches her blouse up and knots it.
Now her ice-cream starts to drip.
She sucks her thumb.
Don’t get ideas. These are just words. This is language
writing the poem on auto-Pilate. Jesting. Playing
with itself. Washing its hands. And
idling. Ticking over. Doing nothing. Thinking nothing. Finding
mischief, as it always does, for idle words to do.

What I have written the language has written for me.

page 141

Arse Over Tip

European Translators’ College, Straelen

This language-fetishist retreat
in small-town Germany
has books as an ostrich has lice, a hundred and twenty thousand of
The books infest the atrium. The seminar rooms. The passages.
The study bedrooms are full of them. In mine, Hungarian literature.
And French from R to Z. Their languages
tremble with desire, as Barthes, I’ve no doubt, would have said. Now
was someone who knew what he wanted. Or wanted to say. But what
      I really
want is you. Now. Against the shelves, say, so Babits Mihály and
Ady Endre (their names are arse over
tip) come
tumbling. Sprawl on the floor. Milan’s a mild-mannered man. He’s
re-translating Joseph and his Brothers into Croatian. Back in the
dissident days
he did his time in gaol. With him
I have pleasant talks about comedy. Mischa’s a mushroom-gatherer.
They know about mushrooms in Russia. He tells me
how to distinguish something from something else. And so another
ten or fifteen precious minutes of life
pass harmlessly enough. But
what I really want
is to love you so the teeth knock in your head. The
secretaries chainsmoke in the open spaces. Irmgard
asks if emplotment means anything more
than plot or plotting. I check the passage, say no, it’s the usual
academic self-importance. Come to me, love. Come
sit on my laptop
and give back the meaning
to enter, hard return, control and shift. Come. Translate me.
Come make the word flesh. Come

page 142

The Half-Life of Jesus

     [ I ]

On the day when a survey of biblical knowledge
revealed that twenty per cent of respondents
who claimed to be Christians and to own a Bible
could say nothing whatsoever about
the crucifixion or the resurrection,
a brother of Michael Jackson said his name would live forever.

     [ I I ]

From the Ethiopians on the roof,
closest to God, I descended
to the patchwork of persuasions in the church
and stood in line for thirty minutes
waiting my turn to enter the horrible box
atop the sepulchre
where prayers and kisses
lip-glossed and glorified the rock—
the Lord, I suppose, knows why I was there,
he sees into the hearts of atheists—
and when I was the next at last
a great Greek momma hung with gold and rosaries and crosses
shoved like a hippo to the front
and, challenged by a shy, polite attendant
who pointed to the hundred others waiting,
brushed aside all fear of falsehood
as she might a parking ticket
and lied indignantly, ‘Young man, I’ve been here all the time!’

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

page 143

     [ I I I ]

These olive trees, which those who know such things
declare to be two thousand summers old . . .
what ragged twists of wood they are,
like hanks of tangled rope, snagged, knotted, frayed,
the military grey-green of the leaves
silvered like suede brushed hard against the light.

Today there are men on knuckled wooden ladders
gathering in the bitter harvest,
dappled by the shadows and the sunlight,
knocking down the olives with their sticks.

What would I give to hear what they could say,
these trees, the sole surviving witnesses.

Garden of Gethsemane

     [ I V ]

No, I can’t suppose the Great Story true.
Still, I prefer to live as if it were.

And so I make the toilsome journey too,
with gifts of gold and frankincense and words.