The Games Room – Robin Maunsell

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1998 Crabbe Memorial Competition – Second Prize
Adjudicators: Martyn Crucefix and Judith Kazantzis

Beyond the Assembly Hall, Nolly’s classroom for Classics –
five windowfulls of a cedar’s lower branches. Always
a stampede when the bell went – cues, triangles,
scoreboard markers sent travelling back to zero, the banging
of tables, striptease of covers.

                On my first day I wandered around,
loose and lost, chanced on the place, learnt the game called
Indifference. Finally it seemed the Games Room was shut up for good,
blinds pulled down, covers on, a generation of cobwebs allowed
to settle.

                When, that night, you opened the door to the attic
we found ourselves scrabbling for bats. Soon the table was up
and a moth-eaten looking net strung across and tied to a nail.
My wild shots were matched by a curious deftness in your return of serve,
as we turned love on its back and played Hate. Eventually
I spotted a weakness in your backhand, rammed home the lack –
a final-set game called  make your lip tremble and your face
pucker up
.

                 The attic’s locked, well and truly, and barred
and the terrible ping-pong table thrown out, chopped up, burnt – spitting
and screaming to the last while I poke the ashes, loose and lost.

Copyright © Robin Maunsell 1998

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