On Being the Middle Generation

After the clamour of choosing a captain

the Cobbers – barely taller than the plastic yellow stumps –

fan out in cartwheels or stare at clouds

like distant white shorts fielding the soggy sky

 

while the Warriors loll or abscond with their mates

to the dank, graffiti’d toilets.

Cockatoos apostrophise the oval’s timber boundaries,

heavy-hoofed Dads look up (“Oh, shot!  Run, Alex!”)

 

from their murmured discussion of merits and means.

I’m thinking of my father’s childhood, of how we need

a taxonomy, a way of mapping worlds

 

as if they were cousins, consanguineous,

by human alchemy intertwined

proliferating branches of acceptance and release

from exile and diaspora’s inheritance.

 

First world: my father reading Jules Verne for his friends

in the icy ghetto; second world, once removed

from our kids:

unable, for fear of the racket,

to put down a zinc bucket he has carried to the attic

while the Gestapo questions people in the apartment below,

my grandfather watches a stray dog in the street outside.

 

That might be a way of mapping how I have come to this field,

its big face beaming upward into the Saturday drizzle

making its pitch to the sky, like a kid,

momentarily pleased with himself

for having scored a few runs.

Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology 2008