Poetry: At School with Reg Gasnier | clivejames.com
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At School with Reg Gasnier

Gasnier had soft hands that the ball stuck to
And a body swerve off either foot
That just happened, you couldn’t see him think.
He wasn’t really knock-kneed
But he looked that way when he ran,
With his studded ankles flailing sideways
Like the hubcaps of a war chariot.
At tackling practice we went at him in despair
And either missed or fell stunned,
Our foreheads dotted with bleeding sprig-marks.
So glorious were his deeds
That the testimonials at school assembly
On the day after the match
Went on like passages from Homer.
He put Sydney Tech on the football map.
There were whole GPS teams he went through
Like a bat through a dark cave.
Sydney High, with backs the size of forwards,
Only barely stopped him,
And they practically used land mines.
Wanting to be him, I so conspicuously wasn’t
That I would brood for hours in the library,
One kid from Kogarah utterly wiped out
By the lustre of another.
Later on, as a pro, he won national fame.
His shining story followed me to England:
I couldn’t get away from the bastard.
By the time I got a slice of fame myself –
And we’re talking about the echo of a whisper –
His nephew Mark was playing:
Clear proof that the gift was in the blood.
Reg is retired now
And not writing as many poems as I am,
But give me my life again and I would still rather
Be worshipped in the school playground
By those who saw him score the winning try,
A human dodgem snaking through a bunch of blokes
All flying the wrong way like literary critics –
Or at least I think so,
Now that I can’t sleep without socks on.