Not a team player, even in a team of one,
he could rarely conscript himself
to that sweeping aside, great clear-felling of woes,

though he admired the way the oval ball
got reborn, wobbling out
from a thicket of muddy legs,

or how soccer’s untouchable orb –– shrunk to a bright
dot on the drizzling screen ––
touched like a bolt, brought the lounge to its feet,

and sometimes, channel-surfing,
he fell in with Wimbledon’s sharp little grunts and thwacks
that made of the air something

furiously lashed and strung, harp of lines
firm enough to climb
to a kind of music: swing, kick, dance

out of civilised skin, into
instinct and brilliance –– worn green oblongs shot through
with jazzy, doodling grace notes, raptures

of disappointment, even their own
concise stretches of boredom boggy and grey
as infinity –– yet the lovely

footloose physics of it all
somehow seemed less riveting
than table soccer or slot-machines in Pierre’s Pool Hall.

Something in him backed off
from gladiatorial ecstasies, or preferred them
filtered by distance: his dim

mouldy bedsit on Mountjoy suddenly aired
by one of those windy roars –– a ball missed
or saved in nearby Croker ––

to which he’d raise a toast: Here’s
to the king of whatever happened or didn’t, the catch
in drifts of silence, cheers.