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Carol Ann Duffy’s World Cup poem


In a couple of previous posts, I’ve not been very complimentary about Carol Ann Duffy’s latest work as Poet Laureate, but her new poem “The Shirt,” written in response to England’s poor performance at the World Cup, is a definite improvement. It feels, to me anyway, a lot less stilted and forced. Part of me thinks the alliteration and assonance is somewhat overdone, but it doesn’t grate and I do actually think it fits.

If she writes more like this, I could get on board. If she offers up dollops of shite like “Achilles,” that’s another matter.

Afterwards, I found him alone at the bar and asked him what went wrong. It’s the shirt, he said. When I pull it on it hangs on my back like a shroud, or a poisoned jerkin from Grimm seeping its curse on to my skin, the worst tattoo.

I shower and shave before I shrug on the shirt, smell like a dream; but the shirt sours my scent with the sweat and stink of fear. It’s got my number.

I poured him another shot. Speak on, my son. He did.

I’ve wanted to sport the shirt since I was a kid, but now when I do it makes me sick, weak, paranoid.

All night above the team hotel, the moon is the ball in a penalty kick. Tens of thousands of fierce stars are booing me. A screech owl is the referee.

The wind’s a crowd, forty years long, bawling a filthy song about my Wag. It’s the bloody shirt! He started to blub like a big girl’s blouse and I felt a fleeting pity.

Don’t cry, I said, at the end of the day you’ll be back on 100K a week and playing for City.

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