The beautiful game
They packed in pubs that sold them pints,
Pickled eggs and packs of crisps in tarty flavours,
Sea salt and vinegar, pink prawn cocktail
And pork scratchings dropped in an excited fluster
As men in football jerseys jostle at the sticky tables
Looking for the space to jump, when joy will wash
Over them in tidal waves, if the TV tells them so.
The screens are green, only broken by the tiny players,
Burgeoning with moneyed privilege, but who am I to judge?
We savour moments on the tongue, hoping that
The opposition will not claw back at that lead,
Staring at the corner clock, seconds ticking
As we hiss like angry snakes at a weary ref:
‘Blow the whistle, man! Blow the bloody whistle!’
And finally it does become a win, as pints and crisps
Are thrown up in the air, a perfect frieze of happiness,
If only we could hold that moment, Kodak ready,
But it fades, as all moments blemish-free will do.
I’ll still be smiling in the morning on the train to work,
I’ll still enjoy that tiny sliver of the silver joy
For as many days as I can eke from that ninety minute game.