David Musgrave

1965 / Australia


None are more familiar with dew
than professional footballers. From early
grades they are used to running through
practice drills and hurling their burly
frames through rucks while the moist chaff
of wet grass under the winter lights
softens their fall, accustoms the half-
back to the slippery ball and writes
green cuneiform on wet sandshoes.
And they fear it in the morning,
kicking off the dew in the ‘twos'
because they ignored a coach's warning.
Half their lives are spent in clouds
of condensation or the cold heat
of a winter sun where even the crowds
seem like droplets on the concrete
rose of the stadium. In the final days
of their season , sweat-spangled on the eve
of their triumph, the ball on a string and their plays
honed, even the doubters believe.
And the last day is, once again,
already an aftermath: the ground's been shaved
and sucked dry by the noon sun
and the paddock has become a paved
and bristled hell for those who will
collide with it and pinion flesh on
earth, earth on flesh and spill
blood for the sake of the game. Possession
is the law; all are possessed.
And when the crowd melts into the dry
darkness, after that great red football's
booted between the uprights of the sky-
scrapers and gone, the sky bawls
cheerless little drops for the victors
and decks the oval with the losers' jewels.
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