John Milton Hayes

(1884-1940 / Lancashire, England)

My old football


YOU can keep your antique silver and your statuettes of bronze,
Your curios and tapestries so fine,
But of all your treasures rare there is nothing to compare
With this patched up, wornout football pal o’ mine.
Just a patchedup wornout football, yet how it clings!
I live again my happier days in thoughts that football brings.
It’s got a mouth, it’s got a tongue,
And oft when we’re alone I fancy that it speaks
To me of golden youth that’s flown.
It calls to mind our meeting,
’Twas a present from the Dad.
I kicked it yet I worshipped it,
How strange a priest it had!
And yet it jumped with pleasure
When I punched it might and main:
And when it had the dumps
It got blown up and punched again.
It’s lived its life;
It’s played the game;
Its had its rise and fall,
There’s history in the wrinkles of that wornout football.
Caresses rarely came its way in babyhood ’twas tanned.
It’s been well oiled, and yet it’s quite teetotal, understand.
It’s gone the pace, and sometimes it’s been absolutely bust,
And yet ’twas always full of bounce,
No matter how ’twas cussed.
He’s broken many rules and oft has wandered out of bounds,
He’s joined in shooting parties
Over other people’s grounds.
Misunderstood by women,
He was never thought a catch,
Yet he was never happier
Than when bringing off a match.
He’s often been in danger
Caught in nets that foes have spread,
He’s even come to life again
When all have called him dead.
Started on the centre,
And he’s acted on the square,
To all parts of the compass
He’s been bullied everywhere.
His aims and his ambitious
Were opposed by one and all,
And yet he somehow reached his goal
That plucky old football.
When schooling days were ended
I forgot him altogether,
And ’midst the dusty years
He lay a crumpled lump of leather.
Then came the threat’ning voice of War,
And games had little chance,
My brother went to do his bit
Out there somewhere in France.
And when my brother wrote he said,
‘Of all a Tommy’s joys,
There’s none compares with football.
Will you send one for the boys?’
I sent not one but many,
And my old one with the rest,
I thought that football’s finished now,
But no he stood the test.
Behind the lines they kicked him
As he’d never been kicked before.
Till they busted him and sent him back
A keepsake of the war.
My brother lies out there in France,
Beneath a simple cross,
And I seem to feel my football knows my grief,
And shares my loss.
He tells me of that splendid charge,
And then my brother’s fall.
In life he loved our mutual chum
That worn-out football.
Oh you can keep your antique silver
And your statuettes of bronze
Your curios and tapestries so fine
But of all your treasures rare
There is nothing to compare
With that patched-up worn-out football—
Pal o’ mine.




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Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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