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Sport 42: 2014

Bill Nelson — How to do just about anything

page 90

Bill Nelson

How to do just about anything


The dogs will find you first.

Even under the snow
they can smell the fear and sweat
and polypropylene socks.

Your grandfather can smell it too.
He’s faster than a dog and pulls you out
by the scruff of your neck.

At five, you were strapped into a pair of skis
like Edward Scissorfeet. Disturbed,
eating a sandwich with metal poles
dangling from your arms.


You’ll notice it at first
as bad breath, then the crumbling
of chalk cliffs into the sea.

You’ll grow a beard,
get into buttermaking.

Eventually you’ll come to realise
that everything happens by accident.
page 91 One day, you’ll arrive at this completely
in the barrel of a wave
surfing on your hairy body
like a seal.

Concrete driveways

You’ll spend at least one summer
building a concrete driveway
on his farm.

It curves up and around a steep hill.
One that the chicken trucks
used to spin and slide on
in the dense red mud.

At night you’ll play charades
on the porch. Your grandfather
acting out the time a truck rolled over.

His arms are the doors swinging open
his laughter is the sea of squawking chickens
pouring out and over grassy slopes.


As if it wasn’t bad enough
that it constantly snows outside
you will also have dyslexia.

Trying to read the road sign
which some people call
word blindness

all you see is a diamond
stuffed with impurities.

page 92


Hiding under the bed
naked and shaking
is never a good way to be found.

The first you will hear is a terrible
rumble from the sea. You are being evicted
and no one told you about it.

The picture frame rattles.
The whole world lurches to the left.


You’ll wake up with a fever,
the odour of fish
under your fingernails.

The family tree disintegrates.

Petals fall like petals
to the communal feast.

It is impossible to push a trigger.
It is impossible to be un-dead.

Garage sales

You’ll attempt to sell everything:

A selection of gourds.
The garage doors.
Your aunty’s fondue set.
The rules to Rummy.
page 93 How to freestyle.
How to row.
The garage walls.
The garage floors.
The garden locks.
The kitchen chores.

Hair loss

Abundant blooms
give you hay fever.

You’ll hate the tropics.
Everyone does.

The hangovers. The heat.
The confusion.

You’ll send a homesick postcard.
The tattered edges of your left ear.

Income tax audits

You’ll need to explain
the ice hockey equipment.

They’ll need evidence
of a real desire to change.

While introducing them,
you reach for the rules
of common etiquette—

old to young, the people you know
to the people you don’t.

page 94

Jet lag brain

The suspension of knives in the air.
Strips of peeled vegetables.
Preserved fruit paste.

It’s the perfect time to fill out
that job application.

There is juice and coffee
and jam toast.

You wonder why the walls
wear clothing.

A giant clock ticks
with two opposing hands.


Counting your kilojoules
will get you nowhere.

You’ll be suspended. You will be fired
at some point.

So take off all your clothes,
take off your watch. Why not
shave all the hair from your body?

You’ll fly a kite one day
watch it slice through the air
and think of it as thoughtless
the world sliding by.

page 95


Greasing the car, your grandfather
rolls around on his wheeled platform.

You’ll have to take care
of this old lady, he says.

The old lady who sold it to you
said she couldn’t drive it any more
because of her eyesight.

It’s a left-hand drive she said,
you have to get used to passing
on the other side.

Motion sickness

He will decide, several times,
he needs a hobby.

Martial arts. Decorative knotting.
Mice as pets are great—alert and agile.

The ship casts off from Hobart.
All the women are crying. All the men too.

In some kind of great sobbing mass
of morse code the messages wobble out.

The mice scurry up the mooring ropes.
Little backpacks on, filled with pastimes.

Upside down. Right way up.

page 96

Net worth

In the end you’re just a nosebleed.

Wet and itchy, a noisy pipe
that won’t stop rattling.

In the end we’re all the same
put into frame by an unknown director.

In this one, you’re in the foreground
goofing about. While in the back
the garden is looming.

One day cricket

Like origami, oyster soup
and obscene phone calls

this is something your grandfather
was never into.

Ultimately it was up to you
upside down on the sofa

your head lolling on the floor
the net curtains lifting

and resetting, ready to catch
whatever comes hurtling in.

page 97


You’ll need to obtain
a fake passport.

One with that name you had
before you had a name.

You’ll need party hats
and well-fitting pants.

You’ll need patience, gall and calm.

An unwavering eye but not cocky.
They’ll see right through that.

You’ll need fears. The regular kinds

like falling from a ladder,
peep-holes and internal parasites.

Include injuries—broken wrists, a heart murmur,
spots on your liver. Something evocative.

Tell them the primary purpose
for your visit is business.


You’ll play on the lawn, rubber rings pitched over
the old white tips of survey stakes.

That is where the chicken run used to be.
You imagine more of a chicken warehouse,
page 98 a chicken strip mall, a vast sports arena
where all the chickens cram in on match day.

You’ll concede that you’re drunk
on the promise of victory,
the very real chance of rain.

Regrets only

You’ll take your grandfather roller skating,
watch from the edge of the rink.

For dinner you’ll make rabbit stew
and discuss its distinctive character.

Rose petals as a garnish, but also to eat.
Not many people know you can do that.

Sometimes it seems you’re the only characters
in an absorbing character-based mystery.

You know this is all adding up to something—the rose petals,
the roller skating, the rabbits.

Small claims tribunal

In prison, due to a lack of evidence,
you take up bone carving

and when there are no bones
you get into string winding.

Nails hammered into the deck
like stellar constellations.
page 99 Your grandfather is sick of tip-toeing
through the milky way.

He claims everything you do
is a day out of date.

This is disputable. From your cell
there is a view of a cornfield.

An old man walks the rows every morning
rapping his stick against the stalks.


You’ll have a passing fancy with terrariums
and tie-dyed bedspreads, which is not much use

in the time of need—a flash of insanity
in which you attempt to grow

the most unprofitable of fruits.
Just teething issues you’ll say

while covering the mouthpiece
of the phone—a garrulous solicitor

on the other end trying to tell you
when it’s all going to end.


You are winding down. You are feeling sleepy.
The day drips off you like rain from an umbrella.
page 100 You spin like a universal joint
in a worn-out car.

You have moving parts. Your parts are tired.
They are slowing down, they have stopped.

You are still. The engine is off.
You are buried in the yard.

Other cars pile up like drifting snow.


It’ll end up everywhere
when timber becomes too expensive.

You’ll miss it dearly when it’s gone for good.
Like video cameras and exotic vegetables.

He always had the right quantity
of vitamins in his diet
and when he vomited.

I may be a while

His last four years have nothing to say,
not because they don’t want to

but because there’s no real words
to choose from.

Like a who’s who in a who-dunnit
the mystery resolves itself.

page 101 The first wrinkle around the mouth,
the weather and water-skiing.

You can have the wallpapering.
You can have the whist.

He whispers something about zippers
and cultured milk

and then his arms are crossed
over his chest.

Like a sarcophagus, like a bat sleeping,
like an X.