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I am too sensitive to be a centre-back!
each attack stops my heart like an awkward question,
each panicked call of ‘clear it!’ like an oncoming car;
& it’s hardly surprising that the last man in defence
always looks much older than he actually is.
but the manager is deaf to my cris de coeur,
& reluctant to alter a winning team. he palms me off
with promises & praise, & usually I buy it, with my
appetite for eulogy & my vulnerable condition.
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I get butterflies three days before kick-off,
have recurring dreams of underweighted back-passes
& headed own goals! I have become a mindless soldier,
conditioned to defend. I jump obediently at the captain’s
noisy words, & dive in selflessly where few would dare.
I trip & kick in the name of victory, sacrifice my
gentleness for the good of the team. & I have grown
to pathologically resent forwards for their complete lack of empathy:
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& not just theirs, I hate ours more! I envy their goal tallies
& their penalty shouts, & their misguided wisdom from
the relative safety of the opposition’s box. I often imagine
methods of cruel torture for our gobby midfielders or
our egocentric strikers, who speak through their arses,
& only then in words of one syllable. it’s not that i’m bitter,
or a serious malcontent, but I wasn’t cut out for an unsung role,
& the crap they come out with would have galled a friggin’ saint.
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& however good a tackle is, however spectacular a scissor-kick
clearance, or a sweetly timed lunge to prod away the ball,
it’s not a goal, & i’m rarely allowed to raise my arms or salute
the bench, & leap into the crowd to receive their adulation.
I have reconciled myself to inglorious duty, the bitter reality
that coach loads of travelling fans will never sing a chorus of
‘one paulie summers’; but I wish they’d understand when they
jeer my hurried slices, or boo my frantic hoofs, that i’m not that
happy to be playing as last man, & i’ve told the boss repeatedly
that I really am too sensitive.