Title: Sport 31: Spring 2003

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 2003

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 31: Spring 2003

Elizabeth Smither

Elizabeth Smither

page 44

Death's web

Today there is a fine webbing
on my mother's face. She looks
through it, as if accustomed

in a theme park ride
to have these cotton threads
brush and lightly settle.

Are not her wrinkles deep?
Is this not the lightest touch
which she might desire

a softening of her vision
as on the Ghost Train ride
as a young bright bride

accompanied by her husband
determined to be no less brave
when the cotton/cobwebs parted

and the train plunged into blackness
on its fake/fear slide.
Then there was light and daze

and now, a presage. She smiles
but sinks too, as if
a light weight is meticulously measured.

page 45

Undoing a formal bouquet

All tightly-twined it was with nettings
of pink ribbon looping through
and an arch of climbing ivy
making a maypole dance overhead

and wrapped—no child was tighter swaddled
than these blooms were pressed—
some in individual sachets of crystals
the roses and the forced tulips

crushed and surrounded by a press of
ordinary and variegated leaves.
So, ignoring the implied instructions:
Leave me, leave the floral designer's art

I undid it and, unswaddled, took out
the common leaves and discarded
the superfluous greenery, hung
the netted ribbon above a lithograph

where it resembled a tutu and let
the stems released from their sachets
swim a little in a little more space
of tap water slightly temperate.

page 46

Music withholding its theme

Late night radio: the melody hour
a sand drift of classics, a winsome breeze
but still so many withhold their themes

that come upon them in the early bars
and then are hushed. Save, save
their hearts of musical thrift whisper

and like the lesser gods of music they obey.
Better they were fools and gave it all away
and created anew from that magnitude.

Still it sends us into sleep: that theme
heard softly at first and then disguised.
Its subtlety makes us close our eyes.

page 47

To Mai, a month after her death

Such stillness the undertaker achieved
as if we were to think no further
or only in one direction. Stilled

at the committal, the incense lingering
the reluctance to move, to take you further
surely that showed a reluctance of thinking?

The church has returned to its old bareness.
Sermons come and go, a child is baptised.
Other funerals follow yours through the wide doors.

Now it is as if you did something amazingly gallant
laying yourself down, getting wet, over a small stream bed
making yourself into an impetuous cloak-thrower

and then whirling in fire, melting at last into
your most beautiful expression, then, calmed
prepared to be scattered to the winds.

page 48

Girl on a bicycle

Pedalling across the busy intersection
as if she's been blown, not by
the discreet pushing of pedals

for she sits very straight in the saddle
her scarf wrapped around her throat
her books in the basket on the handlebars

as if music propels her: a blast
from trumpets, horns, tour buses
as they swirl just behind her back

held so straight as if she is a door
lifted out of a building by bicycle
a perfect and private door

or an arched window being carried
as preciously as a sheet of glass
down a street suddenly narrowed

by double-parked cars. And the music
follows her, muted but never pausing
for a second, her hair flying

a breeze lifting the scarf
the books juddering slightly
the strongly-pulsing pedals.