Friday, 3 April 2015

Hockey Masters in March

Bob Commin


It’s a hot March afternoon
our Masters hockey players are at work
on an expansive green unwet astroturf field
the field licks its tongue in the dryness
and the white ball refuses to befriend our players
we are the over 65s, as fit as our longevity
breaking all the records that our parents set
we are living the life of eternal youthfulness
the invitation team we play against is really as old as we
but they have won a match!
the sun explodes in red spots
and reaches the fulcrum of our earth field
reducing energy levels and drying up our water
in the turmoil of heat and lethargy
the game lingers a little beyond stationary

Now I’m furious with the left wing
whenever I look up, he’s busy unscrewing his prosthesis
we advised him not to play but after Oscar Pistorius
he has a vision of becoming famous

Our backs are a little precarious
the hubs of their wheelchairs haven’t been oiled for months
the squeal of their wheels creates panic in the back line
to pass the ball back is like laying tiles on a weekend

The two inside forwards both suffer with arthritis

so that when one expects a strong pass
one gets this feather-weight lean-to that never really almost reaches you

Now our centre-half has irritable bowel syndrome
he’s a nice chap really but he plays hockey with such heaves and sighs
that it always appears as if he is rushing for the loo.

Our left wing is totally deaf
he plays and smiles
all attempts to exchange him for another player fails
in fact we have to slap him with a hockey stick
to injure him in order to bring on a fresh player
even then he only smiles, while someone clears the blood

Our link players are on Zimmer frames
they are all on the board of an old age home
they move in a wonderful rhythm to the tune of “We are the Champions”
which is quite misplaced as none of them
can keep a tune or move in sync

I look back and see that our backs are swivelling around in wheel chairs
our coach who controls the movement of their chairs
has lost control of the joystick and sneezes with hay fever

Our right wing who has an aura of shiftiness
has an alarm attached to his hockey stick
he’s paranoid about his stick being stolen mid-game
every time the ball touches it the alarm goes off
once the police arrived and took his stick off for examinations
they reported that they couldn’t find his fingerprints on it

But the most frightening feature of our play
is the nature and aspect of our shadows
they do not follow us as one would expect
it is as though they are more aware of what we are capable of
than we ourselves, for often
when we rush into a dribble
which is more than what happens along the line of our mouths
they seem to just stand and wait, almost with hopelessness
until we return to them

The centre-forward had to run fifty yards
against the run of play, to catch up with his shadow
his shadow didn’t half give him a drubbing down for being so ambitious

I look forward to having a few pints tonight at our local pub
The Old Goose, an event about which
our warden knows nothing.



From: McGregor Poetry Anthology 2013
Published by African Sun Press in association with the McGregor Poetry Festival
ISBN number 978-0-620-62302-5



The Poet:


Bob Commin is a poet and storyteller. He grew up in Woodstock, Cape Town and has taught in schools in Scotland and England. Latterly he runs workshops on creativity, storytelling and poetry. His most recent publication is Under the Ilex Tree. Leon de Kock is a poet, translator, essayist, writer of fiction, literary translator and professional literary practitioner. He has published three volumes of poetry: Bloodsong (1997); gone to the edges (2006); and Bodyhood (2010). He was awarded the Pringle Prize for Poetry and the FNB Vita/English Academy Prize for Poetry Translation. His translation of Marlene van Niekerk’s major Afrikaans novel Triomf won the South African Translators Institute’s Award for Outstanding Translation in 2000. He is Professor of English at the University of Stellenbosch, having formerly served as an English professor at both the University of the Witwatersrand, where he was Head of the School of Literature and Language Studies, and the University of South Africa.


Previously published:

Bob Commin: Wandering minstrel from the June 2013 edition of Good Hope