by Isabella Diaz Pascual | October 28, 2023

’Tis the season for men
To lock living-room doors;
While their wives are out for supper,
Other lovers make them splutter.

THERE’S our boy!
Bellows affirm an Alexander
With a mouthguard grin, musk and ‘good hands’.

He assumes position
Among loinclothed Olympians
Shoulder to shoulder
[boys in Argive camps –
a cold night –
        you know how it is mate
        a body’s a body]

Kick-off now
Chests heave, level live weight
Polyestered wrestlers wrangling to prise
Sweat on the astro is
Oil scraped
Off the backs of Claudian bathers

The opposition crack
Then drown in virility
And shouts of HEAVE!
        conquer me    HEAVE!
        make me bruise      HEAVE!
        shudder beneath you          HEAVE!
        press the field                                 HEAVE!
        its wetness                                                  HEAVE!

Ref’s whistle cuts the mood
[caution for a naughty boy]
Bloody winger
Born offside like
Pints replenish, breaths caught.

They must grip tight,
But not so hard as to break.
There is a tenderness
To the soft backs of knees
Gaps in armour
Which like lips, meet;
To the props’ Herculean shoulders,
The hooker, draped across them en arrière,
The ripples of men,
Their singsong teases.
There is something about this –
Something about it –

Then pales on the small screen,
Condensed by a commentator
Barking bathos over replays.
Stats null delirium, tables
Sort ardour into leagues;
Things-this-public do not subvert
They do not befuddle –

But only floodlights stop them
From fumbling in the dark.
After showers.
In the sheds.

It is enough to flatten Coors.

Still there’s a fire
Swayed, loose-bodied,
Sung and contended;
As the arena throbs
For chariots and steeds,
So screams in tandem
Every household in the nation
For rugger, for footie, for gaa,

And in these hot-wet throes
Of arms and tight breasts,
In all the messy syncopation and the ‘we’,
A stolen moment
As gazing from stands,
Man sighs to man
        thank god for the game
        the beautiful game.

Words by Isabella Diaz Pascual. Art by Lily Middleton-Mansell