It’s been interesting to observe the H words of our national team’s advancement to the semi-finals of the Russia 2018 World Cup. The England national football team has been host of a peculiar neurosis that our collective psyche has suffered for many moons and tournaments. I do recall the last time the boys hustled their way into the semi-finals in Italia 90, and though our national team extoled all the virtues of our notion of greatness, we lost to a dogged German team in a contest of heightened drama. Tears we did sow. Sweat and a little blood too.
A new era of English football would follow on the heels of the romance that was our Italian adventure. In my head I hear Pavarotti belting his tenor of dreams through Nessun Dorma. My introduction to Opera. I can still vividly see Maradona imposing his will on an Argentine side that didn’t have enough to go all the way on paper. His presence on screen had an aura which abides with me. Its strangely Chaplinesque. I can recall the colour and polyrhythms that Roger Miller and his Cameroon brothers entertained us with. I can see the outpouring of emotion in the light of Toto Schillaci’s eyes, and the passion of his goal celebration. You know the one. The soul of Italy was summed up in that moment. He seemed to me much like the spiritual twin brother of the character, Mario Ruoppolo, in the film, il Postino.
After the trip of nostalgia I’m always brought back to the H words. History. Hysteria. Hype. Hypocrisy. Hope. Our national game’s national team embodies all of that. All of that and much more.
In my head there is also the image of a fleet footed Des Walker. So swift and precise in the tackle. So dependable. So determined. I had never heard him speak until today. Old footage on Youtube. Old news that is new to me. I was thinking about him and realised he was the most silent of the moving images in my mind. There is a poetry about his presence in that team and yet he was the personification of England’s footballing ethos in the nochalance of fulfilling a duty. For country. For Queen. For self?
28 years later a nation once again measures its sense of self worth and identity with all the H words and sibling alphabets. Alpha but no omega. And a longing for football, their prodigal son, to return home. With such high stakes, it is more than a game. England is perpetually in search of its soul. And perhaps that is true of all nations.
Dangerous nonchalance, tame the tongue as one would tame the Shrew.
Nigger owes you when it owns you,
tie the rope around the neck, choke the spirit behind the word till it sounds like Reggin.
Old words in new clothes begin aggin with new clothes on old pain.
Healers like dealers, double up on bad luck for crowned faces cried out in biro blue.
Thorny headed healers for troubled heart, trembling lips sip from the pimp cup, your child drinks your tears through breast milk, breathe easy baby.
Where is your gravestone? They ask. Double chin up, but you ran out of time slowly. Dragged your bones forwards for your bastards to pick at the choices. Sounds right. She loved you dearly. Nearly. Had you. Hindsight. Beloved burden, clearly marked for some kind of purpose if not a living born outside of life.
Light hearted but the older the lie, the harder the trust bites the lack of. Dearly beheaded, buttered up the heart with sayings and cholesterol calamitous promises. Words stray further that the eyes can see. I can see further than the stray. But I can’t feel that way west or some south eastern mystery that dies with us in a fry up. Did we learn well? How long the tarry, and how merry the folly. Only fools and Horses, and the company of the dead who bury their own.
Hamburger aroma of weed smoke arising, latching onto hipster attire, Engineer’s banter louder than boom bap mutations, mute DJ slaying the Latin, cap on forward, sideways glancer catching a vibe, luscious lady, copper smooth, eyes find mine in hers, stepping out my mind to mingle with hers, just a sec or two, not a game, mature as you and I tonight, wrinkled and frank, digesting the jest, next questions begat more doubts than assurances, grown folks are childhood inventions, nurtured natures and fallen angels run the roost, while tall babies wag tails with tales, I’m talking and listening, I’m watching and fiddling with your thoughts and my attention spans the expanse of your face, the crevices, the creaky foot path across your mind and mine, gapping the bridge when I’d rather be inside of you, twister sister, mind over mister, feline recline, I’ve got you forged onto me.
Atom bombs don’t need to play tit for tat and title, like men in suits. It’s the long game. And the short of it. The certainty of it is that nobody wins. But we already know how this plays out. What’s clear is not new. Hiroshima had a baby that had a baby that had a heart beat that had a memory that did not forget.
Last year in the same stadium where Usain ran his last individual race tonight, I watched him run a pedestrian time (by his standards) in his favoured sprint event, the 200m. Then I looked at the awe filled faces around me after he had won less emphatically than he was accustomed to. Old and young faces of various shades wore identical expressions.The after glow illuminated those same faces that perhaps had more in common with the grey of London than their sunny disposition . They had seen the fastest man in recorded history do the inevitable. Winning was never in doubt. I left the stadium with a sense of an ending. I had watched him run well enough to win another race and it couldn’t last forever. Not long after that night, he added three more gold medals to his tally of nineteen (Olympic and World championship). A flawless resume, untainted by missed or failed drug tests. It was time to go. The body knows best. But in some peculiar way, the fact that he didn’t win tonight will endear him to the world even more so than a 20th gold medal might have done. We finally got to see him face defeat in a major championship final and he handled that adversary with grace. How we lose is just as significant as how we win.
We like our superheroes to have some semblance of weakness to remind us that they do exist on the same surface of the earth that we bestride. Father time is krypton’s leveler restoring balance and the order of things. I’m glad that I am a witness to his boundary breaking efforts. He kept the sport of Track & Field Athletics alive at the worst of times and I’m sure there will be a lot of new borns named Usain in Jamaica for years to come. In defeat he remains very much a champion of a medal far more illustrious than gold. He won the hearts and minds of the people. Common folk from all walks of life. He will remain the people’s junk food loving and living champion. He leaves the track as arguably the greatest sporting phenomenon of my lifetime.
Is it the sky that colours the thought that my eyes speak when you look into me? I didn’t try to hide your questions in there. We just got stuck on the tangled high wire of hearts we dared to cross on foot. No fear. Just fools. Just us.
I wore your favourite smile today. It only cost me a tear before the train arrived to put me back on track. Love races the many miles of memories behind a kiss. I had hoped to return it to her sacred place. Sometimes we hold on too long and awake to find that the dream does not always follow us into the morning. And yet the Sky remains as young and dear to me as that devil in green. Or was it blue? And I as old as the grey bearded child I always was.
Calella leaning, tilting for tips, toes standing up for the streets, with bended hearts so hip to hope. Don’t stain the carpet when you cushion the fall. Don’t rumble young man, and don’t call the law. Don’t scratch the considerate air that carried your balls higher than the crawling Spiders you fear, and the Tuesday flings that booted you out on the curb of slithering desires, bouncing your love into a glass of shampain. Who’d be a patriot for all the basket cases and fresh faced beauties bolted to sleep in their bubbles of pantomime glee. I got you.