Football Boots


Mud was cleaned off,

Dubbin rubbed into uppers,

polish brushed onto soles.

Worn studs were replaced

and long laces washed

in whiter-than-white legend.

Newspaper stuffed inside

kept out creases and ensured

sensitive shape maintenance.

Ritual was a magic part of

hand-me-down football boots;

with it went father’s warning,

Look after these football boots

your cousin’s feet are growing

ten to the dozen.

Café La Habana, Mexico City

located on the corner of Morelos and Bucareli,

in a busy neighbourhood describe as downtown.

It’s a traditional haunt for writers and journalists

and an attraction for visiting tourists like myself.

Time stood still here since it opened in the 1950s.

Word on the street and legend in the guidebooks

is Fidel Castro and Che Guevara planned

the Cuban revolution sitting in this very café.

Photographs on the wall of the famous two

add a certain credence to the story. Somewhat

outweighing this are all the No Smoking signs.

Surely they couldn’t have been adhered to?

I’m the first to admit as I order an Americano

at the counter there is a certain atmosphere here.

Then I sat down and saw the tablemats

advertising Pepto-Bismol, the quick acting laxative.

In the confines of the toilet cubicle, I attached

a Banner Kernewek sticker to the door.

Perhaps a visiting revolutionary will see it

and support independence for my nation.



 It is recorded in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that, in the year 1099, there was so very high a tide, and the damage so great in consequence, that men remembered the like never to have happened before, and the same day was the first of the new moon.

A land of old upheaven from the abyss

By fire, to sink into the abyss again;

Tennyson set the legendary scene

for the final battle between Arthur and Mordred

and in the richness that is literature

Guinevere became 'Lady of Lyonesse'.

Lyonesse, Lyonesse, Lyonesse.

Even though you sank without trace

you are the muse for poets:

Hardy set out for Lyonesse

and came back with magic in his eyes.

Arthurian legend sped Swinburne’s

quill across his Lyonesse page.

For Walter de la Mare

the sunken island was sea-cold.

Lyonesse, Lyonesse, Lyonesse.

A turbulent undercurrent crashes

through church belfries on the seabed.

In tune with the peal of church bells,

I say the magical name over and over:

Lyonesse, Lyonesse, Lyonesse.

And I wonder if the floating wreckage

gleaming in the full moon light

is from a space craft that landed long ago

on the island of Lyonesse.

Les Merton was made a Bard of Gorsedh Kernow in 2004 for services to Cornish Literature. He is the founder and editor of Poetry Cornwall and the author of seventeen books, six of which are poetry collections. 

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