Playing the Game
A school sports field in winter. Aged twelve,
I am a rugby conscript with my clumsy boots
and matchstick legs. This is trench warfare
for pre-adolescents: freezing mud, impact,
bodies toppling, shouting. In that tradition
I do not care who wins, I only want to hear
the armistice of the final whistle. Is that it?
No. The games teacher screams in my face. I have committed
some infringement of the rules, the rules
of rugby, mysterious as algebra.
After leaving school, I never played again
but rugby informed my life. From touchlines
I watched, an outsider, as tries were scored
while now and then a woman screamed in my face:
she was leaving me for something
I had or hadn't done: exactly what,
I never found out.
I never did learn the rules.
If you have any comments on this poem, David Whippman would
be pleased to hear from you.