Sunday, 24 September 2017


Here's one for you...


“That was old O'Nelly's seat. He sat
there every week there was a home game on.”
Moulded red and numbered like it was his
coat hook, supporter's pew, he'd park his arse
two rows down and somewhat left, behind
the Clock-end goal. He had a member's card
for the Arsenal;
a man amid a thousand other fans.

He'd bob erect and mouth along, Stand up...
eschew the tribal chanting, Ooh to be...
Detached, but still a part, manoeuvred by
the Army of the clad-in-red-and-white,
it seemed that he belonged unless you saw.
I wondered what it felt like to be there,
like an Ishmael,
outcast between a myriad Gooners' howls?

Nondescript, anonymous O'Nelly
felt all their eyes pin-prick his every move,
his selfish consciousness a faulty seam
hand stitched from shy-cloth. No-one noticed that
old jacket, worn a little more each day,
gone very comfy, snug, with patched up sleeves,
hands in pockets,
routinely wearing out towards its end.

He cheered his level best when goals were scored,
in skywards-surging exclamation points,
but instinct driven leaps of faithful joy
were never shared with mates who'd thump and hug.
That turned up collar, buttoned cuff, was lined
and seamed, kept inside pockets to itself.
Seeming threadbare,
that garment past its best was out-of-date.

I stitched together thoughts on what he sought
when drinking down the Tollington at nights,
seen fractured through an amber ale, his pinned
lapels a buttonhole array. I swear,
out on the far off side of the touch line,
you're never on your own in crowds. And me?
I'm but Anon...