Tonbridge Reserves fight back
from four-one down.
As their third goal registers,
Brighton's hapless goalie screeches "Fuck!"

His captain, unimpressed, admonishes him:
"Don't just fucking stand there saying fuck!
Get your fucking hands to the fucking ball!"

He doesn't. We equalise: 4-4. Behind the goal,
the rain seeps through my schoolboy cap to nurture
that seed of sociolinguistic awareness newly planted
alongside my growing passion for the beautiful game.
So few passions survive the decades.

Into those teenage years: a goalie now myself,
curiously bereft of fear, flinging myself at forwards' feet
as though their boots are made of cotton wool.
Nothing (almost) gets past me on the ground,
but those high crosses, my low jumps,
fail too often to get my hands to the fucking ball.

In a sleepy temple town, Luang Prabang,
barely able to count my notes in Lao,
I imbibe the universal language
in wisdom from a monk: "You Ingalish ?
Charlatan, Allah Sheila, Lee Pool, Tot Nam."

On the killing fields of Africa, from time to time,
they sweep away the charnel, mark white lines,
agree to play by tried and tested rules.
Genocide is offside, artistry king, poverty suspended.
Generals sneer, people rejoice.
The equaliser has arrived.

Bryan Murphy

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

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