Sport 42: 2014
The words for places, flora,
fauna, fit my mouth oddly.
I say them with care
as if driving a car I do not
own. That is the purpose
of a name, I suppose.
A place is not a thing, a
name is not a thing; things
are tarpaulins, kettles, piles
of wood, folding chairs, pens,
paper, ropes, glasses, hearing aids.
When I miss her, I find myself
missing the box of her curling
picture books, her threadbare
pillow case and flannel sunhat.
Her hair would fade in summer
and lose its softness, I know.
But the missing has to be done
on an angle. I can see the books
more easily than her face
and I still won’t say her name.
Orange plastic mug
Once red and always on
the plaid-lined lower shelf
of the cupboard under the sink,
for weak juice and milky tea.
The mug smells of hot tussock
that breathes like baking.
It tastes of the Belgian biscuits
my mother made one summer
and looks like black-striped pink
geraniums. It feels like feet
swilling sand in a bucket of water
gone warm, sounds like the pound
that resembles wind at first, the tide.
It is full of the frustration of playing
children’s Scrabble instead of
the real thing with darker squares
and no pictures, the tired
comfort and outrage of being
put to bed before the fire
is put out, while other children
climb the hill’s seeping shadows,
feeling their way under wire
fences and over dead sheep;
screams flashing like torches.
There are orange plastic mugs
and magenta geraniums and dry
biscuits, tussocks, torchlight
here—but what is the point
in saying that mug is a similar
size or I learnt to swim by
walking my palms along the floor
of a lagoon identical to that one?
It only marks the distance between
here and then. Sometimes I am far
from the country that no longer exists;
sometimes I feel close to nothing.
This mug is not a likeness, a simile.
It is the same mug I drank from then.
I hold it now, but the trees are whiter—
bones clean except for silver leaves
the shape of my father’s and my husband’s
dry smiles. One is here, one is then. I am
tense now. Unsure of when we are. Cold tea
burns my lips. I politely ignore everyone.
Hours and glasses
This sand seems rich
with glass and salt.
Pockmarks of shellfish
breathing remind me
of instant pudding
setting; I want to eat
the sand. And, would
like to wash my feet—
cocoa toes in the camp’s
dust. I am not hungry
really or uncomfortable
yet. I can still lie
on my stomach with my eyes
five centimetres from the sand
and examine pebbles calmly.
This one is the colour
of the footpath outside
my daughter’s school.
This one is shaped like
a mole’s face; this one
tattooed with fine rows of
dots like the ceiling
of the room in which I exercised.
I am lucky to have my sight.
If I couldn’t see the stones
I mightn’t remember my home.
Others have had hearing aids
and reading glasses taken away.
The right equipment
The cicadas sound exactly like his electric razor
and the tree trunks’ squeak is our garden gate’s.
The birds are children crying and the pebbles
could fill our cat’s litter tray. In this way
I own the place and am no longer impressed or
afraid. The sublime is for those who can afford
to feel safe—in their tramping boots, under packs
stuffed with layers of clothing and ‘emergency’
food, sunglasses, medication; things one might want
now. With the right equipment the cliffs across
the bay could be beautiful. I am not on holiday.