Football Fiction

A boy living alone keeps things.
A programme with columns of footballers,
names ages heights weights goals games.
Later, he will remember statistics of sportsmen
who must be old, much heavier, or dead.
He invents a team, Stars, in a league,
gives it written life, coupling a first name
with a surname from that programme.

Owen Abrahams might play against
Denis Zeunert in the week-to-week world.
Owen Zeunert has Owen’s height, Denis’s weight,
and Denis Abrahams vice versa.
Players with the same surname are brothers.
He writes out the team line by line,
selected by a complicated system
that avoids odd heights with weights.

Big players are in ruck or key positions,
but sometimes a shorter Star finds
himself playing an unusual role,
always a chance in week-to-week games.
These surprises animate his new world.
Newsprint is the source of his system,
best players goalkickers injuries scores,
decided by each letter of each word.

Underlining, he works through to the end
of an article. Long words mean many
attacks, grandiloquent goals. Sweat flies.
His system is so fair he and the crowd enjoy
close games, some drawn, the smell of crushed grass.
Those newspapers become dark with biro.
His intricate network consists of multiple
minor systems, patterns of possibility.

Memorising this system tests him, but,
frowning in isolation, he sees the order
of his minor systems without recording them.
His Stars begin to take on personalities.
Like the lives of characters in stories
the seasons of his team can be played
over a condensed period of time.
He plays game after game on holidays.

He has discovered a way of fitting
in much more life than he is living.
Stars fade put on weight age retire
although he remains young and thin.
Biros do not last long as systems
interlock with precision. Some games
are like medieval battles fought
on gluey grounds in pounding rain.

Others showcase skills under clear skies
on hard turf when many goals are scored
as his biro moves steadily across
and down sports reports, his exercise
books filling with finely printed details.
He loves to play in dull cloudlight, a chill
in the air, as he resists glancing ahead,
for he wants the future kept a surprise.




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