Sport 18: Autumn 1997
(for Laurie Duggan)
You dial the extra numbers
& talk to an American, a mere
acquaintance, who, having picked it up
holds the receiver to his ear & wonders
Who is the flake on the other end
talking to him, as it turns out,
You know two languages
—Yours & his—
correcting ‘footpath’ for example,
which sounds too pastoral
(Gainsborough, Hobbema, some rococo nut), to ‘pavement,’
& feel, in the effort,
tinnier, more fake, like
a bad ventriloquist
Now ‘pavement’, on the other hand, doesn't
that suggest too great an awareness
of facture? the obdurate & material?
‘Sidewalk’ suggests use-value better.
These are the pleasures of translation.
And the pleasures of communication?
page 172 Best to sound simply foreign—
let them figure you out.
To them the pleasures of translation.
They imagine you
with your sheep & your mobile phone,
crook resting somewhere bosky
(against a rock or tree), near the path
your feet have worn, that foot path—dialing,un-
idiomatic—a kelpie nearby,
panting. You are the centre of his faithful eye.
Or they see you, maybe,
as Chatterton in that painting—
more upright (infuriating
to be be babbled at
feet above their head,
relaxed while you are puzzled.
Like a teenager!).
But that is how they imagine you.
The date, too, would explain your stilted quality;
& the fax machine
—the phone, computer terminal etc
(that inhabit this Chatterton's ‘pad’)—explain
the fact of communication: a European vision
in the South Pacific—explain too the disembodied voice—
your own—you now hear say: