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Life Cycle -A football poem by Bruce Dawe



This poem by Australian poet Bruce Dawe epitomises the unique connection sporting tragics have to their preferred football teams, -an almost tribal allegiance. Each season supporters stare down the twin imposters- victory and defeat. They remain both loyal and hopeful of eventual triumph. This poem refers specifically to Australian Rules Football, but it's themes are universal.
I share this poem on the eve of the 2017 Grand Final to decide the Premiership for this football season. My team, the Richmond Tigers have reached the play off to decide the ultimate victor. They have not contested the Grand Final match for 35 years. My hopes fly with them. This poem links two of my great loves -football and poetry...

Life Cycle
When children are born in Victoria
they are wrapped in club-colours, laid in beribboned cots,
having already begun a lifetime’s barracking.
Carn, they cry, Carn … feebly at first
while parents playfully tussle with them
for possession of a rusk: Ah, he’s a little Tiger! (And they are …)
Hoisted shoulder-high at their first League game
they are like innocent monsters who have been years swimming
towards the daylight’s roaring empyrean
Until, now, hearts shrapnelled with rapture,
they break surface and are forever lost,
their minds rippling out like streamers
In the pure flood of sound, they are scarfed with light, a voice
like the voice of God booms from the stands
Ooohh you bludger and the covenant is sealed.
Hot pies and potato-crisps they will eat,
they will forswear the Demons, cling to the Saints
and behold their team going up the ladder into Heaven,
And the tides of life will be the tides of the home-team’s fortunes
– the reckless proposal after the one-point win,
the wedding and honeymoon after the grand final …
They will not grow old as those from the more northern states grow old,
for them it will always be three-quarter time
with the scores level and the wind advantage in the final term,
That passion persisting, like a race-memory, through the welter of seasons,
enabling old-timers by boundary fences to dream of resurgent lions
and centaur-figures from the past to replenish continually the present,
So that mythology may be perpetually renewed
and Chicken Smallhorn return like the maize-god
in a thousand shapes, the dancers changing
But the dance forever the same – the elderly still
loyally crying Carn … Carn … (if feebly) unto the very end,
having seen in the six-foot recruit from Eaglehawk their hope of salvation
Bruce Dawe



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