THE BIG SHOP


When the team ran out for the first time

I could have sworn I still smelled

my last Bovril as I shuffled into my seat.

This was it. This was The One,

the season where breathing would make sense.

When the Ref blew full-time

on the last day, we were emptied of purpose,

gum-chew freshers of Saturday’s frippery,

the rituals of Big Shop,  Colour Charts

and quality time with the family.

We became hollowed out, skin-toned bollards

stiffened and set in the ground outside Markies,

to be ridiculed, pilloried by non-believers,

precisely balanced, weighed down with bags

for life, with no game plan – death by a thousand bargains.

We became caricatures of our terraced ghosts,

gut-knotted spectres feeling for the off switch

to reduce summer’s drag, flailing, plunging

into unwanted routines, ticking chores off the List

between pickings of slow death Euros, and far-off Copas.

When the team ran out for the first time again

we knew them, recited their names, familiar and new

as we wolfed down the pies and the anticipation

loosened from our shackled domesticity:

the chasuble, the cloth of prayers binding again.

At full-time, in the chill of reality, we pretended

not to hear the tannoy confess the score,

the promise we’d made outside Markies

in the rain, doubting next season, this season,

why this would be The One – the resurrection.

My head was burst, I was oblivious, confused,

a contented rut-dweller, a tumble of opinions

towards the Pub, cursing, judging, confessing,

never going back until the tannoy would call again

and somewhere, another chore is added to your List.