I played a game of football once.
It was on the furthest field from my college;
To get there,
You had to walk off the edge of the map of the town.
Of the eleven men on their team that day,
I only remember one:
A centre-back, his ankles thick as my neck,
Thighs twice as wide as mine,
His flesh the faintest shade,
Like two drops of blood in a pint of milk.
Squat and broad, topped off with a scalp bearing rusted grass,
He had a careful fury about him;
After each challenge,
He slowly, thoughtfully wiped his right boot on the grass,
A butcher cleaning his cleaver.
He carved at me many times,
But found little meat into which he could cut deep,
My legs being two shivering stalks of black bamboo.
Maybe I feared him,
But I was lured back always
By the promise of those fifteen yards between his heels and his goalkeeper,
The most exciting patch of land in sport.
Late in the game, which we were leading by now,
I finally found myself there,
Surging into the headwind, my ambition stronger,
Tearing beyond that last, fatigued slash of his limbs,
Then rolling the ball low, firm and decisive.
My team-mates gathered around me like brothers,
And their smiles meant as much as a father’s.
Later, I limped slowly home,
Proudly bearing the best bruises
I had ever earned.