Voted best poem by readers of issue three

Nell Farrell

George Best at Fifty

We have been estranged for many years
but spend your birthday weekend together
thanks to BBC 2.
I toast you with a bottle of beer.
We agree on your finest goal.

I loved you with a tomboy’s passion
Mesmerised by your feet;
the left you’d worked and worked
with a tennis ball
till it obeyed with all the ease
of your natural right.

Your feet were part of my salvation,
lifting my spirit way beyond
the outstretched hands of blood-stained saints.
Watching those feet
keeping my eye on the ball,
I dodged the defenders of the faith,
left them standing, navy blue veils
blowing I the wind.

Saturdays I wore my brother’s cast-off
Stylo boots, your name scrawled on the side
and screw-in studs. The laces were so long
there was an art to tying them that boys knew.
I learnt about the underneath and round,
the tying of the final, unflambouyant bow.
I was like you then;
flying down the wing, ball glued to my feet,
my brother’s friends saying
That’s never a girl
as they failed to stop me.

You were working class and gifted,
uprooted, getting drunk, just like my father.
I prayed your name with others I collected,
all exiled celts, the worse for drink
but worthy of respect. George Best 
I’d say and Richard Burton, Richard Harris;
covering the mouthpiece
when my grammar school friends phoned
so they wouldn’t hear the shouting in the background.

© Nell Farrell, 2001

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