Though the trend of the game
was turning against us,
it was the final siren that snapped hope.
Hearts heavy, we left quickly,
dazed with the intensity
of riding so closely each moment
of straining, concentrated flesh
torn from ordinariness by effort.
How brave they were, these men.
How forlorn in defeat's mouth.
Their collapsed bodies too hard to look at
I stared briefly at their agony
before turning my own sorrowing back away.
I, at least, had the privacy
of the escaping crowd, the subdued train.
They had to stand in the fading light
like prey knowing their fate: cornered,
already broken, finding dignity.
It was the rain falling as we walked home
that broke the spell: any lingering buzz
of contest suddenly cold and sad and heavy.
A woman hurried by under an umbrella.
Cars swished past on the wet street.
Already, it was becoming just another game -
except that this one was a defeat.
7 October 2009