Title: Sport 40: 2012

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2014, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 40: 2012

Raoul Schrott

page 180

Raoul Schrott


where the river gutters over the slabs the blaze
of its bubbles washes into the ochre foam · the sated green
where water stands on the squares of paddy thrusts the rice
into the smoke that wafts across from the bushfire
then come the afternoon storms and scald their skin
on the eucalyptus leaves · the heat claims its quarter
baking the loamy pasture to clumps of laterite
its flames dyeing the iron in the grassroots red
washing the shoreline into the sea · the rain
inscribes the clay-fired shards with its sanskrit
and in the wind’s irregular metres line for line
flares out of the ash: the sibilants
of the earth · arching over the hillside’s palate
the clouds’ tongue licks at the tree-stumps · the violet
of a mango gorges on the sparks · the sky chants
its searing mantra phrase by phrase the peasants’
tillage in thrall to a single maxim: hunger cultivates
a language of its own · to clear space for a first harvest
the jungle must first burn down to the plains
the fire keeping pace with the road and the streambeds
stamping the plough-land into the black · manifest
from the sky rough letters loom like a palm’s lines

                                    tamatavé, 6 . 12 . 97

page 181


the calamity of rain at three in the afternoon · the vertical
plunge of the sea · and the ravenala’s fan like a bucket-wheel
scooping the surf in vain · the wind barks its mangled
commands for a while in the mud-soaked fields of beat
but then comes the hail bursting out of the coffee-marbled
clouds and dashing against the glass · the evening heat
dams up and sparks indoors while the cyclone heads
north · mildew and peeling lime on the walls · i spread
my legs and sweat out the beer and quinine tablets
the humidity making it hard to swallow body motionless
on torn sheets · hanging from the roof clusters of red
lychees bend and break at every gust · images of a lost
continent: gondwana before the landmasses drift apart and the vast
earth beneath the sky · to overcome its inertia
and find in the teeth of these things and forces some boundary
language reinvents them as stories: shipwrecks and slavery
captains bug-hunters and geographers’ paraphernalia
the romance of khaki · yet the rainy season’s torpor
defeats such heroic figures · the nights here are starless
the mosquitoes won’t let up · loneliness eats the soul
and only the ravenala defies the jungle · from afar
the silhouette of its signal arm tops the hill
able to telegraph nothing but its own name: the travellers’
tree · the drought collects water in the bush · at the base
of its leaves where they scar the trunk it forms a well

                                    brickaville, 7. 12 . 96
page 182


the steel coil of the current stretches from the levee
  to a buoy that strains against the danube
    the river’s balance spring · to the right of the shipping lane

nothing more drifts down · the stick in the muddy
  waves at the bend that sits like a pallet
    on the escape wheel of a swirl is my other marker

for this half hour · from the barrel moored to the riverbed
  to the rowing boat rotted by the rain
    is a line through which the branches of the minutes glide

the trees that have grown with the wind on the towpath
  two then one and then three draw time
    into their intervals · they peg out the frame for the gauge

in this regulating circuit of the gaze · but at the landing stage
  it all comes apart when the pictures get
    too close · under the green of the water

the pendulum slows and swings to a standstill at the wet
  shimmer of a water level as if the river
    could find no ground nor followed a course to the end

of things · waves overlap so that some partly
  cancel each other · the weight of the buoy on its cable
    holds the river to its bounds just as the sand

becomes a riverbank only at a distance · the eye
  prefigures it · the landscape itself merely
    hints at contours that are barely defined as if

page 183

solely the feasible could last · as if the real were set
  to happen seconds in advance or as if a rift
    were close to that high water mark · but the yardstick

is fixed to nothing · the stake breaks like an arm that lunges
  into a mirror and is refracted by the surface
    of the river: it bends and eventually snaps · a willow twig

                                    weißenkirchen, 11. 8. 96


dust and lava covering the streets like
snow · on the step recumbent as in sleep
though hardly breathing now a torso and
the hollow of its form · neck shoulder
and breast of a girl impressed in the cold
ash as fragments of a statue burst by
fire · in this rigid state the face became a
countenance for which no language has a
name · a metonymy turned to stone · the
daughter of diomedes · at the vertex her
tunic splits into two pleats arms bare
all the way to the back · like a mussel
in the pompeian red of the waves and
its gleaming shell · a perfect cast of
white but then a figure of such absence
                                    pompeii, 15. 2 . 98

page 184


the legitimate construction of angels rested on the error
of the lesser · sprung of the spheres and the almighty
god they revealed themselves as nature’s vanishing points
inserting a remoteness between objects and the human
a vacuum that received them with indifference yet
incorporated them in window-light and its own eternity
that was like an unintentional gospel · that is my face
among the apostles: those eyes and the way their
blueness stands out against the life-sized allegory
that forgives their gaze · the hills behind i left pale
and the river changing at the bend from green to an ashy
grey brings the figures close so that i can tell their story
through to the present day · but this has abolished
perspective and all hands point to a chronology
no golden section helps to figure · the trees draw
their own line to the icy ground while peter kneels
down on the bank and thrusts his hand obediently
into the fish’s maw · painting too renders its tribute
extracting colour from the raw stroking it on the plaster
giving a little life to the angelic orders · it is cold
in the chapel · not long now before it snows · only
bare branches will remain of those painted crowns
                                    brancacci chapel, florence, 1425

From Tropen. Über das Erhabene © Carl Hanser Verlag, 1998. English translations © Iain Galbraith,2012.