Fielder

by Zaffar Kunial

If I had to put my finger on where this started,
I’d trace a circle round the one moment I came to, or the one
that placed me, a fielder – just past the field, over the rope,
having chased a lost cause, leathered for six…
when, bumbling about, obscured in the bushes,
I completely stopped looking for the ball –
perhaps irresponsibly – slowed by bracken, caught by light
that slipped the dark cordon of rhododendron hands,
a world hidden from the batsmen, the umpires and my team,
like the thing itself: that small, seamed planet, shined
on one half, having reached its stop, out of the sphere of sight.
And when I reflect, here, from this undiscovered city,
well north of those boyish ambitions – for the county,
maybe later, the country – I know something of that minute
holds something of me, there, beyond the boundary,
in that edgeland of central England. A shady fingernail
of forest. The pitch it points at, or past, a stopped clock.
Still, in the middle, the keeper’s gloves
clap at the evening. Still, a train clicks
on far-off tracks. And the stars are still to surface.
The whole field, meanwhile, waiting for me,
some astronaut, or lost explorer, to emerge with a wave
that brings the ball – like time itself – to hand. A world restored.
But what I’d come to find, in that late hour
was out of mind, and, the thing is, I didn’t care
and this is what’s throwing me now.