Title: Sport 12

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, March 1994, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 12: Autumn 1994

Elizabeth Nannestad

page 10

Elizabeth Nannestad

The Kiss

There we were—two people
and a lot of scenery.

I don’t know what business
you had to kiss me—now

everyone is interested:
the low boughs of pohutukawa

the shoulders of sand and the marram,
our radiant moon.

Don’t stop now—think
how we’d disappoint them.

page 11

Against Housework

I don’t know why our friends say there’s no room
where we live. We keep bringing in more
books and flowers, there must be room.
One of these days, if the spiders go on spinning
and we do no work at all
we won’t be able to see out, we’ll be spun in.

One by one the animals outside
lean on the step where normally I clean my shoes.
Their noses leave a spot of wet.
It’s not that we don’t admit anyone but
we do forget, occupied with the uncharted land
across the sheets: mountains sliding away—
your knees. My untidy love, my sloven. Here we drank

and for us, it was ordinary.

page 12


This was my station: wealthy enough to portray you,
not too impatient to sit beside you.

The wildfowl rise together from the reeds. The hippos
lie undisturbed in the shallows.

Our two youngest slaves
throw out a welcome beside the door
and winds from the desert arrive here on stone.

My hands hold you as the calyx holds the flower.
My household, my lands, I hold in balance
and together they weigh not more.

In all these rooms I most admire
your expression where I see my thoughts of you

and here I sit where I would choose to.
The living, tell me now, are they so happy.

page 13

Facing the Empty Page

The empty page
looks all innocence
but has its own sense of humour.

You might decide
to call yourself Mme X, be sighted in foreign cities without
forwarding address.

The empty page will be at home, waiting.

The empty page is
the Inquisition: you could throw yourself upon it,
say, save me.

The empty page has
no heart
no home
no pity.

The empty page has heard it before
and is not impressed
by your evident sincerity

nor by your wounds. No, not even if they are
compound fractures
or call for amputation.

Don’t give the empty page any of that
colourful stuff. Between the lines
if you must.

The empty page takes
everything you can give it, still is only satisfied, if ever
for a very short time.

page 14

It is a mistake to introduce the empty page
to your prospective lover. It will spoil everything
leaving you alone, just you and the empty page, forever.

Don’t be a fool for it,
the empty page.
Take refuge in supermarkets

with two radios and a loudspeaker
playing at once.
The empty page can’t stand children’s cartoons on television

so turn up the volume.
Give the controls to a person aged less than three
who’ll be a match for it,

the empty page.
Yet neither will it be
set aside, indefinitely.

The empty page is closely related to the Great Australian

Good men, good women, died trying to cross it.
Some people find that encouraging.

The empty page
haunts the OK Corral
looking for someone, might as well be you, to gun down.

The empty page is
some people’s idea of desirable
and not unwilling

to come round for a short time to your way of thinking.
The empty page will
settle in

page 15

take your name at the bank
drink your whisky
inhabit your house

while you’ll feed on your own fingernails
wear black
suffer doubt.

The empty page will retain affection, so long as you don’t
shove it, whack it, thrash it, nail it, push it around
or make crossings out.

The empty page, it’s hell
to live with.
And to live without.

page 16


Simple, the profile
of the young prince
in the Valley of the Queens.

Green skin, gold bracelets,
empty eyes of youth,
he waits for his father to instruct him.

This boy stands on the step
of the underworld
and does not know his way down.

page 17

Immediately after—

Immediately after my grandmother died
we saw nothing had ever held her house together—
where we had visited her
for years and years,
the cunning old thing, time’s unresisting
favoured daughter,
the path beside the house
was cracked, not even a path,
the boysenberry vines in the old chookhouse
not a garden,
and what we thought was a house
is only broken pieces of board, making no effort
to lean together.

Along the windowsill in the kitchen, all
those small things
are no longer there for a reason.

My grandmother is obviously not here.
She might be down on the beach then,
wiggling her long fingers down holes in the sand
after pipis.

page 18

La Strada

Let us call it love: your absences, your violence.
Take this in reply, a poem less flattering than the rest
I seal with my sort of love and send
towards a little man on a long road.

The people you meet, in their tents and their towns
are actors, people whose faces light up
before they turn around, forget you, and go home.
What you go looking for I daresay you will find.

I know what you’ll say—What does she know? She

And so I do. Your everlasting meanness rules our lives,
your freedom by now nothing but a bare covering.
What do you want from me? Remember—I don’t lend. I give.

Sunshine on a plain wall. I know it’s there.
My skin knows it, and knows when it is gone.
That is what I like: the sun. And when
it is gone, I mind. But not for long.

Eventually God will dispose of us. He will
give us a number. We forget almost everything
and later, too, will forget what it is like to be side by side,
to lie and listen to your fist of a heart opening.

page 19


A good man
is easy to find
as the sun
first thing in the morning.

That’s my song.
One verse.
No rhyme.