Seeing a goal scored from a passing train

Seeing a goal scored from a passing train
Poem by Ian McMillan
Illustration by Chester Holme

The train slows, almost stops. Drizzle’s stories
Are stale and repetitious and the traveller
Wipes a hole in the window steam with his sleeve;

A goal is a brief moment of clarity;
A punctuation mark in a game’s long sentence.

A match is happening on a soggily diluted field;
Men and boys run through sludge to get,
Well, where? To the future celebration, obvs.

A goal is a point of sudden change;
A new route found on an old map.

A bloke who looks like he is made of mud
Boots the ball so hard that the air,
The very air it travels through, almost breaks.

A goal is a memory you always knew you’d have
Even before the goal was scored.

The keeper flaps like a scarf in a breeze,
Wafts nothing except the ball’s ghost
And the striker runs away, mouth open in joy.

The goal is always the goal of the game
And the goal of the season. Until the next goal.

I stand and whoop and the train’s dullards
Stare at me like I’m a cave painting come to life.
I don’t care. It’s a goal. The train creaks, moves.