Trick Knee

by Peter Goldsworthy

More ice, please.
And less Kindness.
I have reached the age

of How’s the Knee,
of Starting from the Bench.
The Best-and-Fairest statuettes

are gone, this season’s end
brings a joke medallion only,
bearing an inscription. Very Funny:

Age and Treachery
Will Always Overcome
Youth and Skill

I sit in a Clubroom
with a knee on the rocks,
wanting to be nothing

except a boy forever.
Things learnt long ago
but held in zones of joke

are sinking in.
A week I spent
with both eyes bandaged.

A month at life’s edge,
intensively cared,
my chest full of blood.

And always the Ankles
and Hamstrings,
and Thighs and Knees:

that crippled centipede
I trail endlessly behind me
through the Saturdays.

At the Filling
of the Hot Water Bottle,
and with the Morning Stiffness,

I remember these.
But sometimes –
grudgingly – also this:

a single Cup Final,
before a Crowd,
all relatives.

Plus – among the Safe,
the Solidly Reliable,
the Workmanlike –

a handful of sweetly
fluked dance-steps
that repeat in the mind

like stuck, unwanted tunes,
uselessly, obstinately,

More of Peter’s work can be found at


  1. John Butler says

    Peter, many thanks.

    The way I felt after the Almanac XI cricket match, you could have written this for me.

  2. Goldsworthy writes from experience as both a doctor and a soccer player. His KISS is a novel about a soccer player in Adelaide who is (without fully realising it) coming to the end of his career. The book’s conclusion can be read as a dismissal of the significance of sport — or at best a relegation of it into the arena of youthful folly. The main character walks away from the game and gets on with his life. This poem seems another version of that theme.

  3. #2 – interesting interpretation Ian. I didn’t read it that way. My conclusion was that the writer is reflecting on a long and somewhat unsuccessful (but not necessarily unimportant) sporting career which was dogged by relentless injury but punctuated with moments of beauty – the “sweetly fluked dance steps that repeat in my mind”

  4. #2 IS, I think I stood in the romance line, and then took your place in it again. Not sure what price I had to pay you, or what price I am paying now. I’m with Dips. I reckon it’s about all that effort amounting to not much, but the little it amounts to, is completely worth it. Or is ‘lovely’ used ironically?

    Whatever, it is a terrific topic.

    PS The line Dips has pulled out is the epigraph for one of the parts of my footy book.

  5. Actually, I agree with you two and disagree with my original response which was too coloured by the novel. And it’s a good poem as well that works across all sport — probably even darts. Rather than ‘another version of’ that theme I should have said a ‘more positive variation on’ that theme.

    But John! Hey I have to wipe away furtive tears in movie houses! I have to leave the room in the final scene of Billy Elliot, pretending that the movie is over! I watch the end of Gallipoli enraged, despite the historical travesty the movie represents. Hath not an academic eyes . . . .

  6. I have been trying to write an article about why we play sport with a view on the expat commitment to a native game. (It’s gone off track into a ‘spirit’ of the club/team thing now).

    I feel the themes of the poem are (obviously) very much more personal and about the individual reasons. I’m heading into another Aussie Rules GF on the 25th of March, looking for the first ever win. This despite retiring (again). I must admit to a tear in the eye at many of the lines.

    The bench, the fear of the morning after aches, the desire for a win, the never fading memory of

    “the a handful of sweetly
    fluked dance-steps
    that repeat in the mind”

    That is now replaced with the weekend memory of dishing off a handpass to a 16yr old kid so he could kick a goal, rather than trying to break my own ‘duck’ for the season.

  7. Love it

  8. My heart thunders when I remember my ‘moments’ in senior footy.
    I remember being on the bench, being injured, retiring and coming back only to break my collarbone in my return game.
    Two years later I dislocated my shoulder in my first game for a new club.
    It wasn’t too bad but that was my last game of senior footy.
    I sat in the changerooms and wondered why I wanted to play…
    And now I wonder why I let broken bones,, torn muscles and an 18-month calf injury terminate my play.
    I am reduced to memories.
    I interviewed a doctor today. He is 60 and plays in the over 55s league. He follows Hawthorn. He’s been to grand finals. He trains 50 weeks of the year on Monday nights.
    How many times has he sat in a changeroom with ice on an injury, or woken in the night with cramp?
    Yet he still plays…
    His heart still thunders to football…

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