You were invited to write on a sport or pastime which you feel has hitherto failed to attract sufficient attention from poets. A spectacular blanket finish produced a multiple dead heat -- and my admiration. But I suspect that Brendan Beary’s sonnet may just have edged it.
Those mornings slicing through the river's mist
To orders from the coxswain, gruff and short,
Who never raised a finger to assist;
His role, to be a lightweight and exhort.
Yet he alone beheld the finish line;
We never saw that goal for which he bossed --
Advancing backwards, clueless by design,
We knew our endpoint only once we'd crossed.
No art or brains or strategy was needed,
Our only job, to match the common pace
At mindless effort, constantly repeated,
A portent for adulthood clear to trace:
How like unto my college freshman eight
The workday world is, one can't overstate.
This tae kwan do boy, barefoot in pyjamas,
Flak-jacketed and helmeted, has skill
And confidence, in the unfolding drama,
That when he says he’ll kick your ass, he will.
Abroad, they all use slower kinds of court.
Long rallies spoil the fun, and make us yawn.
In Britain, we know how we like our sport,
And tennis here has always been for lawn.
The plucky British losers win our hearts;
They play theirs out. Though all they get is love,
They score over their foreign counterparts,
Who win, but aren’t sympatico enough,
Who’ve missed the point, and only know the game.
The singles set is where they’ll always be.
In matches, they break ties, which seems a shame.
For us it’s doubles - mixed. Like G&T.
At Wimbledon, life seems, through summer haze,
A bowl of strawberries, to coin a fraise.
Bridge of Sighs
Lighten up! you bridge players!
It’s really just a game.’
One partnerless bridge widow
skulks on Death Row, just the same.
Don’t intimidate opponents,
make them the butt of jokes,
or say I didn’t think you’d come -
not after last time, folks!
Don’t crow when you are winning
or sulk when you have lost.
Hold back from comments like You cheats!
or I don’t give a toss!
If you find you’ve won the game,
never do high fives.
The game’s important. Manners, too.
Etiquette saves lives!
All Together Now
Synchronised nose clips and synchronised Speedos;
Synchronised Swimming’s for synchronised weirdos.
synchronised dive-ins, synchronised ripples,
synchronised breast stroke with synchronised nipples.
Synchronised somersaults, synchronised bums,
synchronised tan on their synchronised tums,
synchronised heads up, then synchronised feet,
synchronised pointlessness, synchronised neat.
Synchronised lipstick and synchronised looks
synchronised codfish on synchronised hooks,
synchronised robots on synchronised swivel,
synchronised silliness, synchronised drivel.
Synchronised wastage of synchronised skill,
synchronised sport rating synchronised nil.
Synchronised watchers all synchronised thinking
that maybe this time they’ll see synchronised sinking.
Today as ever, having read the Times
I've gorged myself on news like rotten fruit;
Mulled over horrors hot from foreign climes;
Evaded Business; given Sport the boot.
Seldom's the occasion when I haven't
Come with gladness to the hard-earned prize --
Rude downfall of too many a would-be savant
Obliged to masquerade as worldly wise.
Such single-mindedness that grid engenders!
Such dire frustration for the jaded brain!
Words can't, ironically, define its splendours
Or why one suffers time and time again.
Rage won't help and, to this addict's gall,
Dictionaries aren't any use at all.
Croquet? No Way!
Croquet is a game that, as far as I know,
Gets almost no press. I believe this is so
Because croquet's a bore. As a contest it's blah,
And a viewer's hard-pressed to produce a hurrah.
Hitting balls with a mallet, with varying force,
Through a series of wickets upon a set course
Is not quite the same as the Wimbledon, dearies,
Or helping the Phillies wrap up a World Series.
Croquet is a hit with the 7- and 8-ers
Who think whacking balls 'round the yard's hot potaters.
Victorian ladies, in corsets and bustles,
Were fond of croquet, as it coddled their muscles.
They'd go through the motions, and after they'd played,
They'd sit in their rockers and sip lemonade.
Croquet lacks excitement, and cunning, and color;
It's hard to imagine a game that is duller.
However you measure it: graph, poll, or Doppler,
Croquet is a loser. It's simply not pop'lar.