For Ben and Timmy
I’m on the touchline, watching my grandson
who’s nine, keeping goal. It’s a wet Saturday
morning in mid-March, the pitch greasy.
He makes a good save, punts the ball over
the halfway with a left foot drive. Fathers
shout exhortations; the boys cluster, swarm
for the bounce, lose their feet, recover.
I take my eye off the ball and think back
to my years running the line and before them
the long halves in mud and in sunshine.
I think back to goalmouth jostles, the high ball
floated in from the corner, the fingertip touch
round the post, over the bar, the desperate
flailing dive, the fumble that let them back
into the game, and the perfectly placed
left-footed shot in the five-a-side penalty
shoot-out that won us the shield; to my sons,
the hawk-eyed wardens of uprights, in gloves
stitched with the legend It shall not pass
who still play for the love of the game
still in progress, as Timmy places the ball
on the six yard line, steps back a few paces,
rubs his boot on the back of his sock, runs up,
and with his left foot larrups it up the field.
17 March 2012