Fifty years paints that football field in golden sunlight;
the gray stone arches of Hart House echoed grunts
impact and college cheers. Born too late to go to war,
we knew some proof of manhood could be found there;
so we drove ourselves through repeated twilight drills
in pain and exhaustion and exhilaration in honour of some
unspoken code in autumn deference to real causes.
I was big, and the summer’s work in the bush had
left me strong enough to defensive play man over
centre and offensive tackle— I’d never touched the ball,
nor the bench; but there was lots of hitting and
lots of pain exhaustion and exhilaration—in honour
of some unspoken code in autumn deference to
reality as viewed from our little ivoried Hart House.
On the particular day that I remember, I had run over centre
with the ease, several times causing him to fumble the ball.
I was enjoying this mayhem, and getting cocky enough
to start taunting him as we lined up face-to-face.
I should have known our opponents would not allow
me to continue destroying their plays. “This centre
is a cream p—
a fist smashes up into my solar plexus: I cannot breathe;
I fall to the ground; I see golden tints on the edges of
puffy little clouds drifting in their deep blue celestial home;
there is one that reminds me of my toy tow truck—
my coach’s face stares down at me: his eyes are huge;
he is asking me if I passed out; I can’t speak because
I can’t breathe. I have been wounded in battle; the
nobility of it makes me want to feast in Valhalla; I want
to cry and cry of the warrior! but I cannot breathe.
The clouds are edged in gold on this autumn day
as I think back and realize that the real gold is
in the smile that frames my face as I think back.