ODE TO A FOOTBALL
Perfection curving in floodlit air,
planet transiting among solar arc-lamps,
salutation in the spirit of engagement.
All people closely interpret your flight,
spheroid gliding through skies of consciousness,
comet following a swerve-shot round the sun.
Millions track your televised movements
as some major clash of nations competing
blows-up in a worldcup semifinal game.
Chants and anthems of teams explode
as you take wing across stadia in front of cameras,
hysteria and flag-waving greet your scoring arcs.
Listen to the myriad-voiced superman praying for a hat-trick,
marvel at his ocean-like collective anatomy
moving like a tide-race in the grandstand.
Consider his intensity, his coming-together means
scanning the action religiously in sync.
A grasscutting wormburner is a crowdpleaser every time,
but it takes a celestial trajectory of great skill
to really make the public animal roar.
Catharsis of expression in a crowd this size
suggests the voice of primordial Adam
shouting to make the first horizons tremble.
If superconsciousness set the evolutionary ball rolling,
what are the principles that keep it in play?
Two-four-six-eight, who do we appreciate?
Yet football-games are only stage-managed substitutes
for battlezones, killing-fields, theatres-of-war,
the presentable face of raptorial nature.
Still we’re here to enjoy ourselves, let’s leave
mass-psychosis disguised as team-support out of it,
savour a noisily adversarial climate.
A lot of enthusiasm fills the cosmos this afternoon,
it’s survival of the fittest in a life-and-death struggle
played out in the stadium of the unfolding game.
Thunder of the crowd is a fanfare of angels
as they worship a white-and-gold polyurethane orb,
handstitched in Pakistan by a nine-year-old,
Twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons spinning.
(Here is an encounter where one without a childhood
has made the round plaything of the grown-up players.)
Now tracking the curve of the ball in motion,
centre-forwards and strikers race to connect,
insane Nijinskys leaping through turbulence.
O the whirlpool of the octane runners
in the wars of contest, O the boiling of the scrimmage,
the cauldron’s superheated swirl of arms and legs.
Suddenly, extraordinary toy of athletes, you
impact the forehead of the foremost red-side dancer,
stamp his skull with a crescentic depression,
Simultaneously take the impression of his cranium
momentarily, so that the sum of the impact
expresses itself geometrically as a vesica piscis.
Meaning what, O football of unexpected symbolism?
Where equal circles intersect is always a mystery.
(Telephoto-lenses are snapping and flashing.)
The perfect circularity of the football
and the flawed reality of the striving man
meet and for a microsecond overlap.
Through the feminine geometry of the vesica,
ancient monogram of reunification,
man is interconnected with his ideal.
Two worlds interpentrate at a moment of concussion
which alarms the neurosurgeon
but delights ninety-thousand fans.
Lacerating nerve fibres in the frontal lobes
was more of a problem with heavy leather footballs,
still more than a thousand headers-per-year is dangerous.
Yet risk is the corollary of material existence
so back to the game as played by its martyrs,
back to the hot start of an attacking header!
(Amnesiac humans’ temporal problem is forgetting,
yet when anyone head-butts the ideal they look stupid,
all thoughts compared to a winged messenger’s are slow.)
Recoiling our centreforward reaches his winger,
correctly-positioned lieutenant, co-worker on the right:
his seventeen-hundred-and-forty-sixth headstrike of the season.
With footwork that governs the ball like a dream,
driving up midfield with swift unstoppable flow,
the man in possession moves with balletic equilibrium.
Like a bubble sliding on fast-moving surf, O football,
you scatter sunlight from your thirty-two faces,
your propulsion is the ecstasy of the player.
But a well-balanced block-tackle
gives you to an oncoming forward:
one-hundred-and-eighty degrees of concession!
Volte-face, about-turn of existence,
as when north becomes south in a single night,
as when magnetic poles of the sun reverse.
Now red winger, face down in mud, taste dirt,
drinks suffering’s medicine for your own good,
knows in miniature what is meant by the eschaton.
(Painfully a ten-year-old is hand-driving steel
through a plastic hexagon in a poisoned house
somewhere in lost back-villages of Kashmir.
Silver needles flicker bloodstained
as, from a square below, voices of other boys
faraway at play in the sun come drifting.)
As our football, sphericity without imperfections,
deceptive corners or rough edges, like a world
without difficulties, hatreds or child-labour, spins on,
Skimming the green with no apparent concern
for which goalmouth it threatens next,
which group of supporters it pleases most.
At the boundary a blue man guns it to his partner
twenty-yards upfield, who traps, spins and passes,
a perfect setup via a fortunate connection.
Now, winged sphere, you stare the keeper in the face!
But a cannonball mastershot glides wide-as-hell,
a good inch clear of the goalmouth. Mass epilepsy!
The meditation of the goalie seems to have paid off,
he visualized the damn thing missing by a mile
and that’s exactly what happened, mind over matter!
Like a popstar passed round at shoulder-level
in the audience, football, you receive fond caresses
from the fans who love you: and you’re back!
Up near the girders of the stadium you fly
from the keeper’s astronomical dropkick
right to the top of the red field, what a longshot!
With the game suspended five endless seconds
let us probe an offbeat archetype,
football, let’s have a proper look at you.
Contemporary wisemen of astrophysics
picture our universe as relatively small soccer-ball
approximately seventy-billion light-years across.
For big thinkers mathematically
the cosmos resembles a finite dodecahedron:
thirty-two curved pentagons and hexagons joined.
Background radiation temperature-fluctuations
were key to this revelation, bombshell.
(The crowd goes quiet for the duration of flight.)
Sonic memories of the big bang
(represented by the goalkeeper’s kingsize boot)
remain in a regular acoustic latticework of waveforms,
Frozen strands of sound-radiation criss-crossing,
a superfaint noise-trellis in the universal sky:
that old familiar shape which rolls through a lager-ad.
Twenty-two players and thirty-two faces,
where’s it all leading by the Beard of the Unmanifest?
Eleven-a-side: the dimensions of the multiverse.
Twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet,
thirty-two elements of the Tree of Life:
we seem to venture into numerology.
A trinity comprising a duality of two opposing sides
and a unity in the form of an airborne sphere,
all resumed in a spectator-sport, how surprising!
We’re into extra time. A beefcake halfback
lines-up and shoots to an accelerating teammate
running like a superhuman out on his left flank.
But a fierce blue dancer comes at him with a sliding tackle,
and once more, football, you’re flying west
into the red end of the game of two halves.
(Deviation quickly, a sidetrack to investigate,
then back to the flightpath of the argument.
Are there implications for theology?
The problem of evil considered as foul on the playing-field?
And the question which inevitably follows:
braindead footballer imagined as indifferent God?
Has Genesis concealed a cosmological truth,
the vision of Jehovah Tetragrammaton
as serious top-of-the-first-division striker?
We’ve already seen proof that one spectacular
footballing gentleman generates an ego
at least, or exceeding, ten-billion light-years in diameter.)
Now a blue frontman pirouettes in possession.
Only just in range of the red goalmouth
he lifts our winged sphere by willpower and dexterity.
You, football, run up the man’s body
like the kundalini-force rising in the spine,
cobra that strikes illusion down.
As soon as you’re in the air, clear of the melee,
a flying teammate travelling horizontally
makes the cerebral connection, one flick and you’re in!
The crowd stands as you penetrate the goalmouth
at sixty-five miles-per-hour on a parabola of destiny
which completely blows-out the red net. One-nil!
Pandemonium and screaming, sudden surge
in background noise! (Collective vocal energy
easily permeating a relatively petite universe.)
Masterminds of astrophysics had thought
back in the old days of steadystate thinking
our universe was indestructible, timeless, immeasurable.
But a radius of seventy-billion light-years
is relatively minuscule. On the other hand
we are looking at one monstrous football!
Nice to inhabit an astronomical football,
the whole lengthy business of the search for meaning
becomes more human-scale, more ‘saturday afternoon’.
A new colour tinges the humdrum atmosphere
of man’s experience in a civilization
under the iron heel of reductionism.
A golden globe wings through electric-blue heavens,
power-icon of creation-myth, the Atem,
it seems we are looking at the Pharaonic sphere of totality.
(‘The At ‘em’ might be a good name for a football club.
It has deep and arcane Egyptological foundations
and simultaneously aggressive double-significance.)
Now, football, you’re back on centre-spot!
Does the fact that the universe is smaller than we thought
make the vox populis so fantastically earsplitting?
Kickoff! (In one of China’s new cities
a girl of thirteen is laminating PVC
in a skyscraper factory full of dioxin vapours,
On the wall by her unventilated workbench
a glossy poster of a blonde western football god.
When the toxic migraines come she prays to him.)
The ball’s in play and reds are dominating.
Their centreforward propels a guided missile
out to his left wing where it’s neatly collected.
The winger is driving it westward to the blue end
when from nowhere a defending halfback gone berserk,
full of demon brutality, intercepts.
Like a piston a forearm ending in a fisted hand
sinks in the neck-area, the explosion of the blow
is audible, the man goes down unconscious.
Even by the standards of a dirty sport where
clots of spit fly in the face and groin-kicks
cripple an opponent this is barbaric.
As God can seem nowhere when things go wrong,
the ball glides away to the perimeter, forgotten,
a policeman picks it up, unsmiling.
They’ll be pressing charges this time
in no uncertain terms; that homicidal player
has proved himself a subhuman, what a shame.
The stadium’s silent, suddenly evil is here,
no shouting as the long sirens wail.
The man’s out cold, he’ll wake up in A&E.
(To digress and slide away from the subject momentarily.
Don’t police alarms resemble acoustic serpents
undulating through the environment?)
Two neurosurgeons, three canisters of oxygen,
a pitch-invasion of newsmen and stretcher-parties,
O, where’s the good in the sunlight?
Evil is that force which constantly wills evil
yet against its own will ends up doing good.
So said the Poet Laureate of Germany.
Catastrophism is real. (Live with that, futurologists.)
Suppose one day the biosphere has an accident,
imagine the planet gets run over by a meteorite.
Where is God’s love in a head-on space-crash
with the soccer-ball of cosmic eventuality?
What about the super-rich and their child-slaves?
Wait, they suggested, in the law-courts of Sumer.
The flightpath of the sundisc, arc of justice,
is long but predetermined and triumphant.
Consider the playing-field as initiation-rite
surrounded with death, Judgment Day and Armageddon
two nationstates opposing in a worldwide cup-final.
From the stadium the stretcher of the stricken one
glides away as his mental body spins from him,
the winger’s soul in flight across astral space.
Unconscious, en-route for a hospital-bed
the injured man still hovers midfield, in position.
Now it is twelve reds against eleven blues.
The substitute has an invisible counterpart,
influential and significant dream-player,
a far more complex game has begun.
Reds are on fire, their wind-sprinter gone.
It’s war in the arena, one more degrading conflict
for sundered-down-the-middle humanity, how sad.
An atmosphere of innocence has been torn to pieces,
the childish bounce of the ball has gone,
only a killing projectile’s left where it fell.
(Highly-paid astrologers of football associations
calculate while media pundits scan crystal globes,
finger predictive tables in the hiatus.
Can the stars be manipulated in their courses
as a football’s manoeuvred through a difficult phase-of-play?
Are there mythic precursors of the soccer game?
A sacrificial victim’s head is not something
to linger over here, especially if it evidences
signs of having ever been kicked around;
Neither shall we dwell on Inca tennis where
unlucky winners jumped to heaven for the prize.
Back to the now-hushed stadium via primetime!)
Reds are twelve with an astral extra.
Their free-kick-taker connects with their main-man
perfectly positioned just outside the penalty-area
Who uses the science of kicking spin into a shot.
A godlike goalkeeper with four arms and a third eye
could never stop this predestined bullet.
Ghostman twelve gives an extra handslap
to accelerate the banana-shaped flight of the Atem.
And this is the equalizer, crowd hysteria!
The goalkeeper falls crosseyed in the mud,
the red dancers lift their striker to the sky,
charge about like shamans under mind-altering drugs.
(Twelve. A formula of interest, where
so many are involved a thirteenth one is present,
but imperceptibly, secretly, unseen.
Geometrically, twelve spheres touching one another
uniquely create an identical but invisible
thirteenth orb at their core, how interesting.
The thirteenth sphere: longtime and ancient
icon of nonexistent Godhead above the abyss.
Do not mess with that mysterious number.)
Goal! Orgasm in the collective unconscious.
Goal! Where the cranium of the Mighty Youth
forces its way through the uterus of manifestation.
Goal! You don’t have to be an obstetrician
to see that small space between posts and crossbar
as birth-canal through which humanity comes alive.
Goal, O joyous soccer ball of cosmic rotundity!
(You’ve come a long way from pig’s bladder
so difficult to fill with air that people died trying.)
Atem, complete one, you are now inflated with light,
justice has been seen to be done, the good has come around,
‘one-all’ is a mystic chant of equilibrium.
The blues are sunk in the symbolism of eleven,
unfortunate number, figure that signifies disagreement
(old dualistic formula of the Manichees).
There’ll be a replay, this time without an ambulance,
the world may end but it also evolves, wounded painfully.
Straight ahead with interesting curves.
What holds so many spellbound is love.
Until that referee of even-handedness
blows his whistle we lurch on in rain and mud,
Crowd this world, rough cubes in turmoil,
shoulders and grudges the wrong way rubbing
all-against-all till we become smooth and round.
People are filtering out from the complex,
jostling in the anticlimax, exchanging impressions.
Bless the unconditional, more power to the spherical!
Iconography, numerology, science, O football,
have all helped us come to terms with you, winged disc
super-controlled by the centre-forward of all time.
We recognize you now in the fierce game of creation
curving away on that elliptical flight
toward the far-distant goal of realization.
Orbicular football of the first cause,
plaything of the greatest player, from all of us,
Voice of Kings Cross too, absolute salutation.