Fierce is their young thoughts
but timid too with fear of failure
shoes tied as tight as a coach can
or loose about their ankles, waving as they run

All with that blank stare
of mettle, of mystery, of doubt that rises as clouds
across small stones nested in the thin grass
about the patched, repainted goals
before zipped away with the young refs whistle

Then that first touch,
and the second back
and all the rush of lungs breathed fast charge in the fry
a mayhem of bony knees, of bruised shins
of dust collecting on their brows

as if thorns, as if gold
they move through the jostling, veering mass,
frustration where their feet don't fit their thoughts
or fast enough to make the play they glimmer
in their reach of eyes

it's all beauty, all tragic, all self-conscious smile
rolled and rolled again
and kicked wide from the open net that waits
almost in reach, almost to their friends who run with them
slowly coming into being, becoming human in that simple work

living as one
with that simple goal.
All win as they line to shake hands: good game,
good game breathed hard, flushed:
some happy with the tally of their team
some hurt, some angry, some almost tears

But winners all
within the greater learning
within their rising chests
human and breathing alive for the next match
the next pitch, next team that wraps their arms around breathing
Go Team!

And their coaches and their teachers
and who that holds them dearest in their own breath
follow with hope wrapped as coats, as umbrellas
where those growing hearts lead

C W Collinson

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