Bradman's Boots - Richard J Whiting

Submitted by R J Whiting on Tue, 28/02/2017 - 19:30

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 Lord’s
three men are stumped,
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 …

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

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Poetry Aloud, Bay Tree Café, Bury St Edmunds