for Ben Fenton-Smith

None are more familiar with dew
         than professional footballers. From early
grades they are used to running through
         practice drills and hurling their burly
frames through rucks while the moist chaff
         of wet grass under the winter lights
softens their fall, accustoms the half-
         back to the slippery ball and writes
green cuneiform on wet sandshoes.
         And they fear it in the morning,
kicking off the dew in the ‘twos’
         because they ignored a coach’s warning.
Half their lives are spent in clouds
         of condensation or the cold heat
of a winter sun where even the crowds
         seem like droplets on the concrete
rose of the stadium. In the final days
         of their season , sweat-spangled on the eve
of their triumph, the ball on a string and their plays
         honed, even the doubters believe.
And the last day is, once again,
         already an aftermath: the ground’s been shaved
and sucked dry by the noon sun
         and the paddock has become a paved
and bristled hell for those who will
         collide with it and pinion flesh on
earth, earth on flesh and spill
         blood for the sake of the game. Possession
is the law; all are possessed.
         And when the crowd melts into the dry
darkness, after that great red football’s
         booted between the uprights of the sky-
scrapers and gone, the sky bawls
         cheerless little drops for the victors
and decks the oval with the losers’ jewels.

David Musgrave, "Dew" audio from Open Water, 2007, Audio CD, River Road Press, 2007; text from Phantom Limb, John Leonard Press, 2010: by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 2007, 2010 by David Musgrave.
Source: Open Water (River Road Press, 2007)
More Poems by David Musgrave