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Tennis in London


How rich they are, being young, being here,
this Indian summer afternoon. One from the base-line
flips up sitters for the other to bring down
in a smash that the first is always there
to scoop back up and keep it going
in this tiny park in the middle of the city,
with its tall history and its trapped traffic
only yards away but a life away from these young men.

Fluorescent green against the blue, the ball
is picked from the top branch of the game and sent
back to start a figure of eight again, to keep
the boys, tanned, in their shorts and caps,
in the moment, on their toes, ten minutes at a time.
Flip, and up it goes, up into the arc of his
outsize racquet. Then, at no signal I can see, they swap;
the one stepping back to set his friend up at the net.

How beautiful this is, it occurs to me it’s safe
to think, who couldn’t stand here at my age
if they were girls, even called women.
But they’re boys, men. Students, I suppose,
teaching themselves, with nothing to learn
and so many years to learn it in. How rich they are,
and me too to see it, this Indian summer afternoon
of bat and ball, bat and ball, bat and ball.


Peter Sansom

The Manchester Review

April 2013


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