Ghosts in slip

June 7, 2011

Further to my last post (now that sounds lawyerly!) here is another poem about cricket which was highly commended in the Adult Poetry section of the Kernewek Lowender Writers Event 2011.  That’s an event celebrating Cornish culture in South Australia.  I’m not Cornish, and I don’t know if cricket is popular in Cornwall, but here’s the poem, which actually rhymes.  It was a pleasure to try something different in form (and tone) from my usual palette (aka bag of tricks).  I wanted to try to write something almost like a ballad, and although it’s not perhaps my best work, there are images in it that I like.

Above the river-flats

That night I fell asleep after my customary ‘one or two’,

(which somehow numbered three, or four, or more than just a few)

and I awoke at half-past-nothing to the thump of ball on bat,

so I rolled over to watch the cricket ground, above the river-flats.

Cricketers wear whites, it’s true, but these glowed like a full moon,

and no-one had to run, for the players floated like balloons.

Above the grass they hovered like angels, or at least anaemic owls,

and something had muted their grunts and usual sporting growls.

‘Howzat?’ was quietly asked and somehow that old appeal,

sounded like Hamlet’s queries when he ponders if he’ll

be or end it all with a sudden bodkin that is bare,

and I wished I hadn’t laid my swag down, just exactly there.

The ghostly game played itself out, as all games must do,

and I lay and watched the players fade, and felt the showery dew.

Then I raised myself, and shook myself, like a dog come from a dam,

but knew that this attempt to forget was a feeble, wishful sham.

At the pub, later that day (and who wouldn’t need a beer

having watched ethereal cricketers for what seemed like a year?)

I raised the topic of the sports-ground, and what teams use that green,

all casual and circumspect with no mention of the scene.

‘There’s no teams play there no more’, my informant said.

‘All the young blokes have moved away, and the old ones are dead.

I was the greenkeeper, and I still keep it all mowed flat and nice,

but no-one uses it, ‘cept wombats.  And the bloody mice.’

The truth tingled on the edges of my beer-loosened tongue,

to tell that immortal cricketers still sent the ball down, and swung

an elegant bat in a strange, beautiful moon-lit ritual,

but such a tale would mark me as a liar quite habitual;

So I shut my mouth, then opened it, and swallowed down my tale,

with the comforting blanket of my pension-purchased ale.

But each night now, as the visions toss and smash and frolic,

they are applauded with enthusiasm not entirely alcoholic.

For a man remembers many things, though he may forget more,

and I recall my own lost days, as I keep the spirits’ score,

before I left my home and love, when I played a different game.

And the exercise of the ghost-team now warms my tired cold frame.

P.S. Cottier

Thoughts? Carrots? Sticks? Comments? Go ahead!

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