Sport 40: 2012
I left everything and went into the valley of peonies.
The ﬁrst fountain I came upon I threw in
My ﬁnal two pennies. Oh! Let me
Speak too soon and rush into the desert
Where each cactus spike is a hardened wish
And sand-weary travellers admit
Their oldest debts to the sun.
Look at what I took away: Three summers (gone cold)
Five word paintings of dangerous animals
Seven childhood memories (chewed over) and one
Black birthday candle with an invisible wick.
I heard of a man who made his fortune trawling coins
From famous fountains in the small hours.
He wore a custom-made snorkel with a miner’s light
And when the homeless and alcoholic spotted him
Wavering under the night water
He leapt like a ﬁsh, calling
I am Poseidon! in a nasal voice.
Before seventeen nights were through he had close to
Eight thousand in eleven currencies.
A religion called Poseidon’s People was established
And three fountains in three continents were cordoned off as holy
After an Egyptian taxi driver took a sip and was cured
Of his Tourettic tendencies.
I watched it all from my glass-bottomed boat
Then returned to the marked grave of my own story.
page 423 I lost the summers and the animals and the candle with no ﬂame.
My coins went to the ﬁsh man, and the childhood memories
Stayed on in the desert and played in the sand.
After the event I explained it all to my neighbour, Mr Luxford.
Mr L, I said, the light in Europe is so ﬁne this time of year,
For weeks I tied my shoelaces without looking down.
‘We had ridden long and were still far from the inn’
Writes Po Chu-I (772–846)
A sentiment echoed by Mary and Joseph,
Hillary and Tenzing, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
I am no Po but I too have fallen asleep on my horse.
‘In my left hand the reins for an instant slackened’.
Who took Po’s reins, in that instant?
Afterwards, Po questioned his groom;
I have no such witness.
In honesty, I do not even have a horse.
But the inn! I can see the wood smoke curling
Over the next rise, across the t-junction
The sun is setting and, conﬁdent of arrival,
I set up camp to rest.
Then I notice other tents in the trees.
Days alone and now this
Everyone is heading towards their personal inns.
No longer feeling like a cowboy
I greet my neighbours with a dog-like grin,
Trade a sorrow for a happiness, tears for water,
Brown bread for white.
And possibly I stay in that camp
For a hundred years—
‘A hundred years are but a moment of sleep’
Writes Po, still riding.