Dusk taking over a court among conifers

though still discernible in thickening shadows

the ghostly tennis-ball and two boys in white flannels

whose dogged exchanges continuing voiceless

let the bored parents pacing back hand in hand

over the sweet-smelling layer of pine-needles

smile in collusion at that stubborn intention

to have done with the set before succumbing to darkness.


All four are dead now. War. Then sorrow. The net

sags as a frontier between tufts of ragweed.

Gossamer drifts where victor and loser

stood preparing to serve. Well below earshot

welcoming gunfire waited over the water

where the bone huntsman got ready to barter

a wad of black telegrams for broken athletes.


Upstairs in the shrine put up during mourning

tasselled caps hang fading by a vixen’s paw

dust-greyed now gummed to its wooden shield.

In blurred team-photographs beardless features

recede year by year from their side of the glass.

No-one flicks cobwebs from the prongs of antlers.

On one varnished oar nailed dry to the wall

a roll-call formed a triumphant ladder of gold.

The date has faded. Each bright initial is tarnished.

from A Puzzling Harvest: Collected Poems 1955-2000 (Anvil 2002), © Harry Guest 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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