Sport 35: Winter 2007
Always tomorrow, and after that
The next day—and the dawn comes
Up a blank behind the pine trees,
And patches them into the ridge line,
Adds in the scrub, the yellow of gorse,
The slope of the gully, and finishes.
The same high climb of farmland
Flames at its limit just before dark,
And then it is night, dissolving
The pines on the ridge, uprooting
The gorse, pitching all into black.
I read by a light, sink under covers.
And sleeping is motion. A rustling
Of the undergrowth, a fling out
On the air, a digging for sustenance,
A prowl at the fence line—where
Morning discloses a still, spread-eagled
Hedgehog afloat in the horse trough.
Little creature. I spade it out of the water
In a splash of sunlight, in ripples
Repeating those of its dying, when
Drive or adventure brought it this end.
I dig a grave in the shade. The soil is dark.
I too search for answers at night.
I came back to the motel about eleven,
A little drunk after dining with
Half a dozen school friends—people
I hadn't seen for thirty-seven years,
Six of us, and two with their wives.
I walked onto the dark grass between
The motel and the near invisible sea.
My mind was swimming. I sat on a bench
Rounding the black trunk of a tree,
Floodlights pointing behind me, looking
Into the night, towards the water,
The beat of the waves. We who were
Boys, boarding together for nine or ten years,
Were men. And not young men either.
We spoke of the death of one man's wife,
Of the wife of another being treated
For cancer, not merely old times. It was
Some time later when two couples arrived
At the ground level units behind me,
Those facing the beach. I saw them
Talking, turn lights on, draw the curtains.
After a while a woman came out wrapped
In a white bath towel, low on her breasts, high
On her thighs, holding a glass. She walked
To the edge of the lawn, where a low fence
Marked out the beach. She stood a moment
There, turned back and stood next to me.
'I'd like to stay out here all night,'
She said. There are no explanations for life.
You old charmer, wastrel, dreamer, sad man, fraud,
I cleaned your shoes, pairs of black and brown leather
Lace-ups, polished them on the bench under the grape vine
Trellis, for years. It was my job. What was yours?
It should have been being my father. I stood at the fence
Beside you, waist high, hand in a pocket like yours,
In belted shorts, jacket, tie, even a pocket handkerchief like yours,
For the photograph I have. Boy was I proud. What a picture.
I tried my hardest, step after step, to make my shoes crunch
Like yours, the time you walked out and along the gravel road,
After that row with my mother. I had to choose. I did. I went
With you, breathless, to the wonderful noise of your walking.
My short, light footsteps made no such sound. I watched
You walk from me once, a last time—leaving me
Behind, pressed under the heavy hand of a stranger—
Along the short, sunny, turning drive. One shoe after another.
The newspaper bills this morning
Carry the story I heard on the radio.
It's one for economy. Father drowns
Saving son. What agonies are there.
My thought runs from the beach,
Its treacherous mud, to my two boys.
It could happen to me. And I'd will it,
Given a choice to make between us.
And now I start to wonder—what if
The world's most celebrated son
Had been saved? If his calls—heard—
Could be answered? What then?
Would rescuing the man destroy
The father? If some unnatural power
Swept all aside, channelling a tide
Of love his way, there'd be no cross.
What would remain? What would be
Visible where the thorned head
Had been? The reflecting surface, waves
Rising, falling. Where the father was.