by Joseph Ryan Glover


I found the following poem in my grandfather’s papers. His name isn’t on it but I’ve searched excerpts in google and received no results, so I think it’s safe to say he wrote it. I like it because it’s an authorial effort beyond his typical mountaineering work and therefore seems more personal. I also appreciate any work thematically dedicated to the premise that time destroys everything. I did some research and I was able to identify the sports stars he name checks in the second verse– some known to me and some not– and what they all have in common is that they were active in the early 1930s. Unfortunately, I’m not able to identify the sports hero who let him down by getting old. Structurally, while I’m not quite as taken with alliteration as Joey, I applaud his flair for word selection, “bepaunched” being the stand out.

Was he not ten feet tall?
What deft Apollo of some forty years flown by
Whose feats the frenzied fans in terraced roar acclaimed
In long gone golden days by Summer suns sustained

His peers were Louis, Lindrum, Owens, Bradman, Budge:
And other giants whose names in banner headlines blazed
Ousting from pride of place – dirt – death – and musty politics.
HE was the grand occasion – HIS the immortal hour.

But who claims this vacant visage, glum and grizzled-grim,
That now empanelled, prisoner in this soulless box,
Mutters and mumbles, tepid, tame, ineptitudes?
Is this the foot, the canny hand, the cunning eye
That once wrote living history history in the record books?
Records ‘tis true, now long since dead, deserted dust;
Bests bettered by a lesser breed of men propped up
By scientific guile and gimmicks, more advanced techniques.
His were the noble arts of nature, native born;
Practiced perfection gained by simply playing the game.

He rambles round in tangents; fumbling, out of touch
With every question – answer: with future, present, path.
His mind’s a blank whereon vague ghosts of by-gone years
Bring back to life their half-forgotten phantom rivalries.

He falters, pauses, brooding, gnaws his pallid lip – and then
In one sad, senile, hotchpotch introspection
Entangles cricket, football, tennis, boxing, golf.
Has Well at Wembley, Lynch at Lords,
And Lovelock race ‘gainst Snead;
And Perry partner Peterson – in Wightman Cup!
His “In my day” and “When I was a boy”
Grate on the slate of schoolboy recollection.

Where has this shadow been since nineteen-thirty-nine
When heroes to the greater contest lent their lives?
The name’s the same – but nothing else, alas, survives.

Would that I had not switched my channel choice,
For ‘Frisco cop, or wrestling, kitchensink,
Were preferable to this bepaunched, lamenting goat
Who bleats and natters now in resurrected fame.
This whining, whinging, wan, would-be conquistador
Now tilts at tinsel windmills, splintered lanes askew.
Here is no hero – gone is the golden knight I knew.

Oh what a sorry, somber senseless sight is here;
My graceless, grumbling, greybeard God of yesteryear.