A poem, “Mortal”, for footballers who know their time’s up

Many footballers, like many athletes or other performers, reach a point in a career when they just don’t want to do it anymore. This poem, “Mortal”, is for them; there is a Soundcloud link below, where you can download my reading of it.

“Mortal”

You cannot go back out there
So all of them return to the light but you.
There was a time when you would have been the first to surge out from that dressing-room
But that was before you grew to fear what’s out there,
Those tens of thousands of waiting mouths.
Above their hunger, beyond the stadium,
The night sky is so cruel.
Long after its stars have died,
It will leave them out there
for all to view.
Wretched you.
There is nothing worse
Than to be an ambition who has lost its thirst.
Two streams darken your shirt,
Which was first handed you by one as hunched as you.
That day, you thought glory
Was all that you would inherit:
Not also a suit
In which you’d perish.
Performers die two deaths:
The second, like all humans, is when our hearts’ rhythm is stayed
But the first is when we hear no more
The call of the stage.
You’ll be found mortal now. And
Three times, you will cry:
When you look your friends,
Then yourself,
And then your future in the eye.
Your coach returns to search for you,
To complete the group.
“Time!” he yells; and then he looks at you, silent in sweat and salt.
“Time”, he says. And you say,
“I know”.

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