The Photographer's Olympics

The photographer has a friend
she sometimes sleeps with who instead
is watching the Olympics, something
of no interest to the photographer
until the women’s triathlon screens
and she is entranced
by the sight of the women’s arms
lifting and rising in and out of the water
black like eels in a swarm
curling and calling
one to another—she wishes
the screen would remain full of the arms
and nothing but the arms for the duration
of the race. Although she stays put
on the sofa and watches the chase group of cyclists
catch up and absorb the lead group, and
goes on to watch the last of the break-away runners
fall behind, the four in front take their places
at the finish line, it is the screenshot
of arms rising and falling she sees as she falls
asleep that night and for night after night
to come. It is all
she wants to photograph but the stills
are nothing without the movement
and so for the first time
she takes to photographing faces,
the stills betraying an extremity of
emotion not apparent
on the move. This
is the worst disaster of her career—
this photographing faces, this creation
of ‘portraits’—the word makes her want
to throw up in the sink, having woken
early full of a dread the exact equivalent
of that dark and sinuous mass of arms
rising and falling on the screen.

Anna Jackson has published six poetry collections with Auckland University Press, most recently I, Clodia, and Other Portraits (2014). She has a DPhil from the University of Oxford, where she has also lectured, and now teaches English Literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
Auckland University Press author page
Poetry Archive writer file
Te Ara—the Encyclopedia of New Zealand