As a consequence, I'm making an exception today and posting (with Oliver's permission) one of my favourite poems from his book. This piece was first published in the London Magazine when it was under the stewardship of Alan Ross, one of the most renowned magazine editors around in the second half of the twentieth century, though the poem still resonates today. Football fans might well notice its relevance to current events at Coventry City, but its delicate observations, surefooted music and layered juxtapositions reach far beyond sport and should appeal to many readers...
Geese above Highfield Road
One of those moments when the stadium
falls inexplicably quiet – you hear
the crowd, as one, breathe in and wait
for someone else’s voice to prompt
the noise. Geese flying overhead
disrupt the spell and players call
the roaring back – an amphitheatre
filled with sound, cauldron of light
beneath a darkened autumn sky.
Up there a flock of geese is set
on inland lakes, days of food and warmth.
Down here goals are barely threatened
by midfield stalemate: we dream
of wingers making for a corner
then cutting back to cross behind
a scattering defence – too much
to hope for now. Disappearing geese,
I saw them flying in for winter.