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Sport 35: Winter 2007

Tom Fitzsimons

page 177

Tom Fitzsimons


your fingers still carry
the smell of onions
on their pads because
you were chopping onions this evening

chopping onions with your wild knife
and screaming from the red
onion magic rising into your eyes
and shouting

'oh no you don't you onion
you onion bastard'
and chopping through stung eyes
'oh no you don't'

and chopping through watery eyes
until they were all chopped
and humbled on the board
and telling the onions to tell

their friends what had happened to them
and then sitting down on the floor
in a mess of limbs
to hold your face

in your hands
and ask,
where are my family, who have gone away,
where are the people who peopled my life?

page 178

Where are the deaths?

Where are the deaths?
he said.

What page?

The ham in his sandwich was pink
and folded
back on itself many times
beneath the lettuce,

and snatches of it
kept falling on the floor.

Where are the deaths?

And he turned the big pages messily,
eating and turning
and spilling at the same time
until he reached the right page,
the deaths,

at which point he stopped,
ran his finger
down the type

and said:

Well, looks like
my mother
is gone.

Then he put the last corner of
the sandwich in his mouth
and the mouth became entirely full
page 179 and he chewed slowly
as he walked away
back to his desk,

his polished brown shoes
nearly soundless
on the carpeted floor.

The mountain inside

The stench steamed
off our bodies: water, blood, mud, saliva,
sweat pinned for days between folds of skin.

We went single file,
eyes on the pack in front,
feet cracked and numb.

Sometimes the wall of wind
stopped even our shortest steps—
then we clung

to the man ahead,
the leather straps on him,
and waited for some voice in the sky.

It didn't come.
One lost a toe,
another his entire pack,

page 180

which flew out of his hands
and upwards
like a prehistoric bird.

One started shrieking, chanting in
his native tongue, until his boots
came apart where he stood.

Finally, we finished—stinking and distrustful,
stomachs sick
from the mountain inside.

But the welcome party did not appear—
the meeting place was empty
except for a rabbit.

And we sat under a leaking sky, the
road streaking out beneath us
to the valley.

Somebody tried to speak. We
would have beaten him if we
had the strength.

page 181

Blind man running

I just expect calmness, that's all,
a hand cautious on the doorknob.

So when this man and his
German Shepherd come
charging down Willis Street—
well, hell,

this is not how it is done—
he with his hard shoes clicking on the pavement,
the dog with its world-loving tongue,
only a line of red nylon between them.

You know what will happen when they do this:

first they will hit the conversation
of two loud women,
send fat wrists flying
to the concrete.

Then he will catch his foot on a
flapping shop sign,
lose his sunglasses as he whirls around.

Then finally they will hurtle into the wooden stall
of a man roasting peanuts,
they will break his perfect concentration and
scatter the warm dots everywhere.

They run all night for me, the dog
and the man, held together by the
most tenuous red strap.

I can't even tell who is leading.

page 182

The concert

Well, it's a quarter to one,
the musicians are still hiding,
I've had too much to drink,
and the room is packed hard
with people and stink:

sweat mixed with pot mixed
with perfume mixed with smoke
mixed with somebody jolting
my elbow, and suddenly
beer on my shoes.

The whole thing has gone to my stomach,
which is a blackbird,
rainbeaten into a smudge
of dead feathers.

And then the boys emerge, with beards,
and all the people cheer,
sway dreadlocks, plaster themselves in
each other's arms, shut-eyed,
roll-headed, fervent
as pigs at the teat.

I buy a bottle of water and
walk to the balcony outside.

Half the people who ever lived
are on the earth today.

The nomads are dead. The tillers are eating
from ashen corn-sheaves.
I never knew my grandfather.

And this is what we do.