Falling with the Angels

"Uncle Len" it was who took me,
an Auntie's paramour, gentle conscript,
beside the railway junction that had put our town
on German bombers' maps, past the hotel
that gave the ground its name, the team its nickname,
into the cricket stand behind the soccer goal
to witness a piece of Boxing Day magic:
men of Kent in blue (mostly Celts)
defeat smart green Essex men --
Tonbridge 3 Chelmsford City 2.

For years I'm at the Angel. First, behind the goal
for a close-up of the blessing that is our scoring.
Then, a discerning adolescent, from the halfway line:
better view of overall play, appreciation of rare fine touches.
I drift away to study, yet return for the Cup tie,
with seven thousand others (record gate)
to see our London big brothers
flay our fantasies of ephemeral fame.

Then even the ground has gone,
another sad supermarket in its place.
The money, too, has gone:
embezzlement, bad management, worse luck.
And I have gone, a rover, disunited from the town.
For years, it's hard to know the Angels still exist.

Necessity invents the new ground in my dreams:
sloping, untended, waterlogged.
Then I truly am at Longmead, on a cold spring day,
a survivor, gazing upon survival, a small, tacky stadium,
a miracle generated by Old Labour virtues:
solidarity, resilience, endurance, crazy hope.

This millennial season the club blossoms,
exemplifies NuLabor buzz words:
prudence, community, investment in youth.
Happily unended, the struggle continues.

Bryan Murphy

If you've any comments on this poem, Bryan Murphy would be pleased to hear from you.

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