Richard J Whiting

Richard Whiting p.1

Today is Monday

Bradman’s Boots

Wild Swimming

Today Is Monday

Today is Monday;
The writingʼs on the wall.
I was alone, but now the birds sing
One by one, clockwork things
Outside in the dark world
They reach me
Inside, in mine.

A noise. He stirs;
My father, husband, or son?
He knows the fabric of each day;
As I fall through the fissured rock
That used to hold me firm,
He guides,
This stranger.

The clock ticks
Loud as a dawn heartbeat.
I watch the boiling kettle bounce.
Outside a fog is forming;
It swirls around Monday
Till its memory
Disappears.

He pours tea
My father, husband, or son.
I wonder what Monday will find
Deep within its own blank space.
He turns over the page-
Today is Tuesday
And the writingʼs on the wall.

Copyright © 2010 Richard Whiting
Today is Monday read by Richard Whiting
Bradman's Boots

The Pavilion doors open.
Bradman emerges.
He walks down the steps,
until white on emerald
Kensington Oval
rains applause
loud as summer hail.

Lunchtime. Lord's Museum.
Before us, Bradman's boots.
Eye-height and regal
like a seminal find
glass-cased in The British Museum
We stare at canvas uppers
stiffened by Blanco, sweat and neglect
silver eyelets, wooden soles
nails, counter-sunk.

A man whispers to his son.
He only needed three runs
to average a hundred in tests.
Just three runs.

Eric Hollies bowls.

Bradman goes back across his wicket,
pushes the ball gently in the direction
of the Houses of Parliament,
which are out beyond mid-off.
It doesn't go as far as that,
merely to Watkins at silly mid-off.

The boy still stares at the boots.
Did he get those runs? he wonders, aloud.
I bet he would have scored
loads more
if he'd had decent boots!

For the first time at Lords
three men are stumped,
simultaneously.
What do you say?

Two slips, a silly mid-off,
and a forward short leg close to him
as Hollies pitches the ball up slowly
and – he's bowled –
Bradman bowled Hollies –
nought.

The Oval gripped by silence
and nothing stirs,
the Don turns away
silence lingers, tips, falls
broken by a thunder of applause
as disappointment dies
on the breeze

Arlott talks him home;

What do you say under these circumstances?
I wonder if you see the ball very clearly
in your last Test in England,
on a ground where you've played
some of the biggest cricket in your life
and where the opposing side
has just stood round you
and given you three cheers
and the crowd has clapped you
all the way to the wicket.
I wonder if you see the ball at all?

Words of poetry,
of genius;
Words of humanity.

Words fit to unlace
the boots

of a champion.

Copyright © 2017 Richard J Whiting
Bradman’s Boots read by Richard Whiting and Martin Hayden
Wild Swimming

Coming here,
to this small space of river,
is like opening a favourite book,
at a passage so familiar
you can recite the words
with barely a look at the page.
Here, I'd stood in
post-swim exhilaration,
my skin buzzing in air warmer
than water that could steal your breath.
The ooze of the bank
would rise between my toes,
flag-iris tattoo my legs.
The boys were children then
swimming with the dog
who’d spin himself dry
heedless to the proximity
of any passer-by.

Different days and a different dog.
I stand watching invisible children swim.
Leaning against thick fence-posts
driven into the heart of the silt,
I notice wires cleated into place
and carrying a sign:

DANGER. NO SWIMMING

Danger of what I wonder?
Three feet of water at most?
The flotilla of reeds
we once named Treasure Island?
Some infinitely small chance
of catching something interesting?

I turn to go
and notice as I do
that each level of wire
owns a sagging middle,
the top strand beautifully bowed,
and on the ground below,
the shaved earth, concave.

Hedonists.
Evidence of hedonists.
Wild, carefree, disobedient swimmers!
I vow to return,
on the first warm day of spring,
when we'll race again,
all four of us;
The dog,
some form of streptococcus,
the water-bailiff
and me.

Copyright © 2017 Richard J Whiting
Wild Swimming read by Richard Whiting

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