Walthamstow Stadium, 1953

by Alice Malin

Daily you polished their flanks

smooth and narrow as organ pipes,

whistled into the salty shanks

that strained through your hands

like mist, grey air.

They wrote themselves nightly

onto the courses, the supple notes

of new songs – no pauses – while smoking

in the empty enclosure you hummed

old hymns, and ash

shone on the floor round your feet.

The twists of paper

in your pockets not betting slips

but prayers. Only the dogs knew

that it was for you they strived

to hone their lithe bodies

to nibs, needle-points, air –

you, who, singing,

sponged their quivering backs

and against whom

they became slack and calm

as in the van back to the kennels

you sang Thy coolness and Thy balm,

the dogs dreaming

of making marks on the tracks

like semi-quavers launching into flight

from their score, like a glimpse

into the muscular soaring

of the evermore.

  1. #1 by jennifer walmsley on May 14, 2012 - 8:14 am

    A wonderful poem. Beautiful descriptions of man, dog and the place. Loved those last 4 lines.

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