This is not you because you don’t work

anymore. Hands that once caused crowds

to roar in derby matches – flicking

balls like flies over the bar – now struggle

with a fork. That chest which swelled

to face the cavalry stampede of strikers

groans at all the air still left in the world.

Legs which booted the ball miles behind

enemy lines now buckle like wiry twigs.

We sit in the car listening to the sea

and the football results. Bolton wanted you

once. You could have played in the

Matthews final but you stayed behind

because of the girl. Old enough

to kick you taught me the goalie’s trade –

dragging lines in the grass with your boot

to show where the posts were. Making

your body big. Yours has shrunk.

I never got a ball past you – now

I could score all day. You smile and

the tutti-frutti dribbles like Charlton down

your cheek. I flick a tissue. Wipe it away.