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Feather's Miscellany: Rugby League Field

John Waddington-Feather’s poem features the game he played as a young man, and the sort of town in which he grew up.

The rugby field in summer grew buttercups like suns,
huge childhood flowers that blotted out the sins
of mills and factories; grew the valley green
a while in reaches of the meadows grown
from farms beyond the boundaries of the town –
a textile town too quickly spawned and torn
a century before from hill and lovely dale.
The rugby and the cricket fields now dole
old meadows out along the river’s course
for sport, which buffets mills and cares
of weekday toil back into the belly of the town.
There head-scarved mams with prams turn
Into shops and cafs on Saturday respite, while dad
And lad bawl lung-hard down at T’Field.
The ball’s away, the game’s begun and fold
on fold of beer-soaked faces hurl their brands
of ale and gritty comments from the stands
and terraces, where teeth-lopped chins
in unison drop to launch an avalanche
of disapproval on the field: “We’ll lynch
thee, ref, we will!” “Clog the sod!
Clog that bloody hooker! He’s set
On fouling right from t’start!”
“Move! Get moving, lad! Tha’rt like a fart
Corked in a bottle!” “Stop that fancy dance
And run – by Gow! He’s scored!” The din’s
a frenzied burst of shrapnel sound, and startled
pigeons wheel in flocks above the streakled
hen-pens, where in anguish Homing Sid
clocks urgently his pigeons in. “Sod
them! Sod them!” loud he wails
as precious seconds drain a way in whorls
of fear high in the sky now filled with cheers;
subsiding only when the kicker stoops to choose
his line of flight and nimbly scoop the hole
which cups the ball. Back he comes on heel –
one, two, three. On tip-toe poises,
sights the post and then the ball. Pauses –
one, two, three again – then thwack!
The ball soars like a bird into the thick
dense crowd behind the posts. “A goal!”
they roar; and off the pigeons flee the gale
of mutilated sound, which leaves again
Sid fuming for lost prizes in his pen.

(From the verse-play, “Garlic Lane”)

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