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Eighteen Plays On Golfing As A Watchword

Simon Armitage


Among the twenty lovers

of the Lady Captain, only one man


knew the wonder of an albatross.



At the second hole he saw the light,

paid off the caddie,

selected a nine iron and his favourite ball,


steered a clean shot through a gap in the wall

and followed it out onto the unmarked fairway


of the world.



Both our balls plugged

in that stodgy stuff

this side of the greenkeeper’s hut.


You see them:

the mad eyes

of the ghost of the man in the mud.



The flag and the green

from this elevation;


a heron in its pool

of stagnant water.



I was about to say something marvellous,

then forgot.


Oh yes,

I stood and was bamboozled

by a line of badger prints

which stopped in their tracks

at the heart of the sand trap.



You sliced a tee shot

off the toe of the club. It pinballed


through the copse, came back

to within spitting distance of where we stood,

and stopped.


A blackbird burst out laughing.



To hole in one


or at last let go of your boy

on his new bike as he makes it

the length of the drive, down the hill,

along the carriageway,

between the weighbridge and the bottle bank -

just a dot now -


and through the gates of the big school without




Which fink blackballed the Captain’s brother?


Among the twenty snow-white members

of the selection committee, the Captain’s face


a picture.



A three iron, two-hundred yards,

dead straight and a decent lie: one shot.

A sitter fluffed from two feet: one shot.


Not the fear of flying

but of falling.

Not the first ten-thousand feet

but the last one. Fatal.



An object lesson in addressing the ball:


head down, hands

where you’re happiest with them

putter firm but at ease,

legs apart and slightly broken

at the knees.


You gents,

try it when you take a leak.



Sometimes in bed I replay

every stroke

in that splendid round.


Some nights I dream

of badgers walking backwards.



To do with film and shutter speed.

Just nicely teed off, this unremarkable old-timer

in a blurred imperfect circle,


caught in the act of his own swing.



Uncanny. On the thirteenth

a blackbird rears up

like an umbrella.


Rain begins to happen.



Us roughnecks from the council estate,

out before breakfast

thieving magic mushrooms from the practice


lost balls to flog at competitive prices

and song thrush eggs from the rhododendrons.


From his hut,

over eighteen misty holes,

the greenkeeper turning a blind eye.



Like a fish

it grows with every telling.


Yesterday you stroked it home from twelve yards.


Today you winkle it from the bunker;

it bites and borrows to the left, anchors up,

rattles the pin and somehow wangles its way in.






I can’t say which is preferable:


the fat man in his motorised buggy

getting no traction in that stodgy stuff

this side of the greenkeeper’s hut,


or the lengthening shadow of the fat man

in his buggy, inching to the clubhouse

as he stays put.



The fairways deserted, the world’s

our oyster.


In the wood the wind is the sound

of the sea.


A ball in the cup is a pearl

for the taking.


On the back nine, one fathom now

from the surface.



Sundown, almost; the 19th

lit up like a petrol station.


Let’s live for the moment.

For the hell of it let’s tee one up

and belt it

into the nothingness.


A shooting star

agrees with us.


From The North No 8 (1990)

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