Title: Sport 42: 2014

Editor: Fergus Barrowman

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2014, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 42: 2014

Elizabeth Smither

page 220

Elizabeth Smither

A gift of spotted tights

Three times I circle the block thinking
What to buy, what to buy? and the moment

a space becomes available I know:
an extravagant pair of tights you’d never buy

for yourself, even if you were a Medici
and an armful of new dresses had just been delivered

and swooned over the arm of a maid. You’d think
how the maid’s fingers would have to ease

the pink blisters raised on the black nylon
over your ankles and calves—Take them away

you’d scream as she tugged—they look like plague
and the maid would scuttle from the chamber

but you, who have no one to dress you, will sit
demurely on the side of your bed and point

your big toe first, then your heel, calf, knee
and thigh (standing upright now) until

you’re clad in these remarkable tights. Pink
raised lumps on black-as-deepest-hell

you’ll wear them somewhere and disdain the
comments that follow. Fetch a doctor, call the ambulance.

page 221

Her legs have broken out. The bobbles warm
your upper thighs, you touch them through your skirt

and underneath the tablecloth your putrescent instep
innocently brushes against a trouser leg.

page 222

Ironing shirts

A friend, paying for hospitality once
ironed a great quantity of business shirts
of the husband of the hostess.

Over the back of the dining room chairs they hung
stripes and plain, finest Egyptian cotton
until the room was full of arms

and necks: she left the fronts unbuttoned.
The scent of ironing outdid the bowls of flowers
on table and dresser and a bowl of potpourri

while I, watching, marvelled at
a sort of swimming with the iron
a familiarity as it raced

along a sleeve or down a placket
having first flattened the seams
and done the collar, yoke and cuffs

of different styles and depth. It seemed
an intimacy with a man greater than
a diary or appointment book. Thin stripes

or wider, one was pink, washed out
like blood, rinsed and re-rinsed until
it barely blushed, though still stood out

among the white shirts for a week.
Finally the iron was set at ease. Folding began.
The dry air resumed its accommodating damp

the chairs were cleared as if from cloaks
and six flat shirts on either hand
were taken off to rest on shelves.