08 November 2010

Tuesday Poem: Catches I Have Dropped by Scott Kendrick

Catches I Have Dropped
For John Y, who understands.

Catches I Have Dropped
xxis a longer poem than
Catches I Have Taken.

For starters, well –
xxthat one on the boundary;
xxthe skull-ricochet skimming over for six...

Then there was Davis.
First senior match
xxand Davis, off balance, clips up a catch
xxto square leg – that’s me, the goggle-eyed sucker
xxwith knees set on ‘quiver’, arsehole on ‘pucker’
xxcoz it’s Davis, the legend, the regional rep.
He’s trialed for CD.
He’s only on three.
At square leg there’s me.
I didn’t have to move; it was chest high and looping,
xxa lolly-drop dolly in slow-motion,
xxstraight at me,
xxstraight to me,
xxand then strangely – straight through me.
He went on to a hundred and thirty four.
I got sent to the outfield – dropped two more.

A field full of Poms,
xxin theory, my team-mates).
I’m plodding mid-on.
There’s nine more runs needed, we’re after two wickets.
The opener’s made eighty, been rattling the pickets
xxwhen he scoops it, quite firmly,
xxbut fairly straight-forward –
xxa gimme, a sitter,
xxa kitty in litter.
I reverse-cup; it pops
xxfrom my hands,


xxand drops
xxso I grab for it, jab it
xxwith fingers of moss,
xxit spits forward – but heroically
xxI swing out an arm
xxto swat it (quite sweetly)
xxwith the flat of my palm...

Then on hands and on knees,
xxwith a gut-sucking awe,
xxI watch it skip down the outfield slope for four.

The bowler screams ‘You incompetent Kiwi prick!’
xxand he spits with great purpose. I look away quick
xxas he rages – a luminous, furious pink:
xxthe next ball goes for six. The opener buys me a drink

Yeah, I’ve dropped them all – there’s nothing, naught,
xxthat I haven’t at some crucial point not caught:
xxthe thick-edging flyers, the spooners, the grabbers,
xxthe lurch-swirling skyers, the skimmers – Oh Jesus!

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
It plunges at me, spinning, sizzling, whistling.
If, during after-match beers, you too
Could hear once again of the slow, looping sitter
You put down, and know then the laughter and bitter
Abuse of your team-mates, the merciless jibes
That sting like a quick one that bruises the thigh,
My friend, you would not mock with such high zest
Those fielders whose fingers have fumbled in shame.
For it’s wrong what they say, it’s a damned lie at best –
Cricket is not always a funny game.

Scott Kendrick is a poet, cricket fan, and father of two small boys who may follow in his cricketing passion, but I'm hoping they'll rather follow him into poetry. He has published two collections of poetry: Rhyme Before Reason (HeadworX, 2001) and Cold Comfort, Cold Concrete: Poems & Satires (Seraph Press, 2007).

'Catches I Have Dropped' is my favourite cricketing poem. I'm not much of a cricket fan, but if you've played any team ball sport you'll understand this poem. The pressure. The humiliation. I enjoy the poem's galloping rhythm and the rhyme that makes a funny poem funnier. I also enjoy the mock epic tone at the end. There's even allusions to Wilfred Owen ('Dulce et Decorum Est' - a much more serious poem) in the final stanza.

An earlier version of 'Catches I Have Dropped' was in Cold Comfort, Cold Concrete: Poems & Satires, but this version is in 'A Tingling Catch': A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864–2009, edited by Mark Pirie. This is, apparently, probably the first national anthology of cricket poems - other cricket poem anthologies have been international. And apparently there is a lot of cricket poetry out there. Cricket seems to attract more literary types than other sports, curiously. I'll leave it to others to consider why that might be.

I went along to the launch of the anthology at the Long Room at Basin Reserve. This was a big deal, I discovered from my co-attendees, who kept breathily making comments about being in the Long Room at Basin Reserve. But even I, ignorant as I am, knew it was a big deal when Don Neely, NZ cricket legend, took off his New Zealand Cricket tie and gave it to Mark.

Mark was working on the anthology for several years, and had to cut back from his original selection. He's started a blog for the anthology, and will be publishing things he had to miss out and other cricket-related literature: http://tinglingcatch.blogspot.com/

And for more Tuesday poems, visit the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/


Mark Pirie said...

Cool, thanks. Helen sold the books at the Longroom launch. Thanks Helen. I did use the Seraph Press version but in true poet's fashion, Scott made last minute revisions to the poem. I think Auden once said, poems are never finished just abandoned.

Tim Jones said...

I was definitely in the "breathily making comments about the Long Room" crowd! It's lovely to read this poem again, and my advice to Scott is: stand in the slips - that way, you don't have time to think about the catches before they arrive!