Denby was peerless in the yard,
Always the first one to be picked:
Unjinxed, unhurried, unplerplexed,
Not one of us remained untricked.
He’d subtly take the ball from you,
Then shimmer like a herring shoal,
And nonchalantly thread it through
For someone else to grunt for goal.
Mud nullified his subtle hips,
But, still resolute at centre back,
He’d play the simple ball out wide:
Not for him the artless whack.
Not grace or magic, but a kind
Of science: he saw the lines and arcs
Of force that invisibly filled the space
Of playgrounds and recreation parks.
He saw equations as a kind of light,
Pure and true necessity;
Calculated, and then sent
The ball where it was meant to be.
Pitch savoir-faire, though, was not enough:
The sharper eyes of girls beheld
His hair unfashionably fluffed
When all the cooler boys were gelled.
And Frances Moxon told him, no,
And, thinking of her breasts’ pale skin,
Glimpsed through her short-sleeved summer blouse,
He slipped, and let a forward in.
And thenceforth Denby lost his light,
Unfound his world’s geometry,
Saw no equations in the air,
And thinned to invisibility.
But memory makes him peerless still,
Our wall, our bulwark, and our shield,
Who showed the beauty of the tackle –
A couplet on the football field.
(Colin Denby, bottom left. Anthony McGowan, bottom right.)