Title: Sport 40: 2012

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2014, Wellington

Part of: Sport

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Sport 40: 2012

Jo Thorpe

page 384

Jo Thorpe

Medea Reading

The scientists for orbital debris
are tracking some twenty thousand remnants
of hatch covers, launch rockets,
fragments of satellites colliding over Russia,
hings which escape or have been dumped.
nother hundred thousand, a centimetre or more
are not yet being monitored.
In the photo they shine like stars—a kind of
prickly swaddle, pinpoints of metal
which because of their velocity
are capable of damaging
space stations, shuttles, any cosmonauts on board.

What this news tells me
is there’s a limit to the number of things which can orbit
other things. Lovers, for example.
The problem lies in deciding how many.
And how to remove an object once it’s
reached the end of its mission?—the philanderer, say,
from the subject of his pursuit?
The good news is the debris doesn’t last
forever. There’s something about
the vigour of matter
lessening in the lower orbits
so the body falls back—like a thing exhausted,
like the feeling after sex as described in the books—
back into the ‘ruthless furnace of this world’
where it burns itself out, completely.

page 385

How the scientists plan to tidy up space
is by using weak lasers like water cannons
to push the junk closer to turbulent Earth—
where the striving goes on, as effortful
as elephants, a quality admired
provided you’re not versed
in the Japanese notion of the floating world
which has nothing to do with being driven.
Better the idea of launching
swarms of cubes—those foursquare things
nosy as an interested cop—which have
sails that will open, attach themselves to the miscreant mess
(though how they’ll do that, the scientists don’t say)
and spinnaker them
down to where they’ll burn.

What I want to say is,
if you unfurl your sails,
if you hunt for me in glamorous space,
don’t think I’m so small that I can’t
cause damage.

page 386

Phoebe and her Charge at the Café Bella Figura

This is where they’ve come, to this place by the river
with its terraces above the open road.

What is it that makes me want to not watch?—
this man, his mind an eight-month-old baby’s

slurp juice from a glazed cup held in her hands?
She bends to him, tendering the movement makes plain:

‘Can you hear the big trucks? Can you hear them coming?
The big loud red trucks coming?’

They roar by in convoy. When the outside air settles back
onto road, river, a distant feed-lot forest, he moans.

The sound! it issues from his very ribs; enters mine.
‘It’s your paper,’ she explains. ‘He wants to

tear it into tiny little pieces.’ He cries out again
as if feeling a twist of dark come up. She tells me she has him

five days a fortnight: ‘He’s a handful, him being so big,
but then I think, if it was me . . . if I were like that . . . ?’

Poor manboy, to cry like this!
What layers heave beneath?

She keyrings a thumb round his agitated belt,
propels him toward the carpark, the quicksand of his legs

a skittering little non-dance of back-and-forth—
a further incoherence. I can see him in the metal

page 387

cave of her ute—belted in, doors locked (is fear, too,
part of the story?) Then she’s back at the table

sweetening her tea. Across the water,
light on some quiet trees—willow this poem

does not need, the kind we call weeping though they
flex and shine, putting on their own brave faces.