Dumbarton Football Club - Sons of the Rock 1872

You Have Played The Game Too Well

You Have Played The Game Too Well
By Stephen Watt, DFC Poet in residence

Written in commemoration of the centenary of former Dumbarton goalkeeper Joe Wilkinson who passed away on 14 November 1921 following an injury sustained at Ibrox during a league match between Rangers and Dumbarton

Beneath a grey November squall at Ibrox,
you are as fearless
as the seas you once vanquished
alongside allies during The Great War.
A man who has survived torpedoes
does not flinch at free-kicks
or grimace at infringements;
and knows the difference
between a performance and an encore.

There will be no encore.

At 24, your legend lies before us.
It is suggested that your exertions in goal
may have contributed to the infection
in your ruptured intestine
but we will never know for sure.
The Lord's Prayer hangs in the air,
waterlogged and dense
and makes no sense
to the loved ones gathered round your bed

but we know all goalies are unhinged;
guardians of the sticks,
a gloved crucifix,
lunatics, escaped from the asylum.
In this position, there is a gallantry of no comparison
and with that reasoning, Joe –
we begin to understand what happened.

That line which the ball must not cross
became a time to commemorate loss
and in your father's final words
'You have played the game too well',
we will gather our thoughts
inside the penalty box of your grave;
poke holes in the dirt with our studs
then place flowers
that only true angels could save.