Title: Sport 40: 2012

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2014, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 40: 2012

James Brown

page 335

James Brown


I’m not living out my fantasies,
I’m living out my car.
You tell me I’ve got problems
like I can’t see what they are.

I can’t see things ‘getting better’
in your ‘incremental’ ways.
The words of Christ don’t help those
who don’t say them every day.

My mind it goes out walking,
it goes walking out too far. My fingers are an accident,
my accidents are stars.

My stars they are belligerent,
my belligerence defamed,
my defamation’s fingered
till my fingers are ashamed.

I can’t see things getting better.
I’m living out my car.
My defamation’s fingered.
My fingers are the stars.

page 336

The Trialist

He’s introduced as Jimmy, and so we call him
Sheep. A doe-eyed, jumped-up hopeful from
a failed, woolly colony, he’s here on
a month’s trial. I’ve seen so many come

and go
dreaming of Ronaldinho. He hasn’t a shit show.
Who of his countrymen have made a go

of the Premier League? Lord Nelsen
captained Blackburn,
but he’s a defender—has mastered the art of getting in
the way—this lamb fancies his name on

the score sheet. First practice,
we shut him down, the tackles less and less
forgiving, until he asks what gives, says he’s
on our side. Is he thick? His bleat receives

my back, but Big Rob’s in his ear:
‘Ah don’t care who ya’re or where
ya from, ya not coming here
an’ takin’ ma job. Do ah make masalf clear?’

So it goes for three grim weeks. But it must be Year
of the Ram. Injury, suspension and a career-
ending ‘off-field incident’ take their
toll, and, come Saturday, the Governor

has him on the bench. It’s nil–nil
halfway through the second spell
when the Gov gambles on a double
change, pushing for the win, the critical

page 337

three points dangling before him like a snare.
Then, a wrong foot: Big Rob—heart of steel, head of air—
collects a second yellow in a rash attempt at flair.
The Gov avoids the Chairman’s stare.

A mad re-shuffle and the sheep shagger is on
—alone up front where he can do least harm.
We hardly even yell at him,
ignoring his distant, waving arm,

his incisive runs to nowhere,
instead turning the ball back or square.
Twice I delay a pass to where
he madly gestures

so he’s caught off-side. See, that’s precisely why
you’ll never pull a wage in this league, sonny.
Then sod me
if he doesn’t score a beauty.

Gets on to a nothing ball, skips past
his man and bangs it in . . . to our collective gasp.
After that, some passes start
to find him. I even offer up a smart

one-two. When the final whistle goes
I’m at his side for photos,
helping him acknowledge the applause
and negotiate the post-match media whores.

‘The team dug deep today,’ I say. ‘The Gov’s punt
paid off. It was tough for Jim alone up front,
but we were always in the hunt,
and he latched onto a chance and made it count.

He’s a good lad, with a great turn of speed.
The boys’ve rallied round to help him find his feet
and they’ll make sure he keeps
them on the ground this coming week.’

page 338

Needs Work

You decide to start again. This time, you listen to your parents.
No, you don’t. You walk into the forest.
This way. Between these trees.
You like to watch people unobserved.
You like to think about nothing. The space it requires.
The time. You drift along the lines.
When you read, whose voice do you hear?
That sadness you sometimes feel. There? Not there?
Have you ever held on too long? Hold on.
What was your grandmother’s maiden name?
You’ll have to go back. Between those trees.
You’ll have to go on. A reassuring sign.
Here come the margins. Softly. Firmly.
Percentage. Leakage. A nice little earner.
The customary world. According to custom.
People in space and time. The illusion of choice.
The tyranny of choice. Partial information.
Uncertainty. A strain of influences.
Decisions based on networks, hunches, haunches.
Emotions made flesh. Shuddering details.
Good feelings. Bad ideas.
Everything is manipulative.
Soft crotchets. Silence. Actual size.
And always the Big Generals.
Mr Unknown. Mrs Unknowable.
Ms Impossible Spirit. Miss Understanding.
You like a good joke. Does that count?
What about Stan and the Cellphone?
The curve ball? The double curve ball?
Questions. Answers.
Sometimes the answers just come down the phone.
Forget love. You cannot replace it.
Follow love. It will consume your life.
Accept your lot. Don’t accept your lot.
page 339 Don’t join the army. Don’t romanticise manual work.
Get a grip. Regain the initiative.
You regain the initiative. But lose focus.
Broad brushstrokes. Depth of field. Negative space.
Nothing you can put your finger on.
You keep on. You could never let things go.
Love’s metaphors. Metaphor’s warm auditorium.
You slip in at the back. You like to watch people unobserved.
The unwritten rules. Indoor/outdoor flow.
Tongue and groove. Tongue in cheek.
A rustic little charmer. Your own patch of paradise.
Needs work. Needs new shoes. New friends.
Both oars in the water. Haha hoho.
Needs to let go. Start over.
Fresh ideas. A breath of fresh air.
No more apologies. No more nos.
Sorry. You’re fresh out of luck.
Missed boats. Loose cannons. The hospital tuck.
Ships that pass in the night.
Darkness. Light.
A flock of seagulls. A flight of steps.
Streamed consciousness. Abandoned sex.
The edge of a crossing. Stillness.
Fullness. Imagination’s flossing.
The unlevel spirit. Bless it. Blast it.
Groups and their creations.
Gods. Religions. Abstractions. Equations.
Particles and waves. Both right and wrong.
An hesitation. Don’t worry.
You’re the sharpest knife in the poem.
You keep it together. You stay on song.
Occasional weather. A red umbrella.
Things so much depends upon. Smiling.
Passing by woods on a snowy evening.
Desire’s clarity. A clearing.
Hairs on tan lines. Lines in the sand.
Boundaries as possibilities. A study.
page 340 Listen to your heart. Listen to your body.
Baby steps. Sibilance. Minor dings.
The inevitable compromise.
Time flies. Time drags. Time slips.
Time sings.
And then it is time.
Windows. Curtains.