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