All year round was marbles season
games played, in dust and puddles,
across the cracked tarseal of the courts.
Each scuffed, gravelled hole, a ring
to shoot alleys, crack bombers
(ballbearings flinched from toolsheds)
on catseyes to smash them out
onto the seal and capture.
To be scooped into bulging bags, pockets
and dropped, with chewed pencils
(stubs of scribbled thoughts),
into pencil cases and smug victories.
The games, played with shouted cries of gain
and tears of loss, divided us -
Girls to girls. Boys to boys.
And within each group the victors,
measured by their marbled bags,
strode proud between the challenges
and losers, scouring the court edge,
looking for chipped marbles,
cast off, not regarded as quality
by those who knew and won.
What more to learn ones place
but to cast eyes forever on the margins
seeking means to challenge the court,
begin the games and gain reputation
measured in alleys, catseyes, swirls
and glassies concealed in pockets,
poured from hand to hand to drop,
rattling on floorboards
and fall through knotholes
in hidden corners of the room?

Alan Papprill

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