The sweet spot

Ailsa Craig is renowned for its granite, harvested to make the world’s best curling stones

Someone @AltonAlbanyBB recently tweeted a view of Ailsa Craig off the Isle of Arran, from the South Ayrshire coast, and I was reminded of this poem I wrote in response to the theme: A Sense of Place. Not, apparently, what the competition promoters had in mind!

The Sweet Spot

No I am not a sportsman, nor ever hope to be one
but sometimes, call it luck of the beginner, sometimes
I have felt the sweet spot for myself.

Wellandport, Ontario
My mind grew faster than my limbs so I was just
a skinny kid — that’s how I’ve always felt myself to be,
but I could catch a baseball, and one day when Leonard
Wiley hit it deep to centre field, that’s just what I did.

Central Pennsylvania
I slogged my lagging body up and down the college soccer field
pretending that I knew a thing or two about
the beautiful game, but I was an imposter through
and through.  One practice afternoon, the pass came by
and I was in the slot.  I raised my foot, met it in air, relayed
the ball straight past the keeper right into the net.

Philadelphia
Crashing through the barrier, into graduate school, 
into my second wind
I felt the rush of exultation on my ten-speed racer, 
and as the static world swept by, 
ecstatic racer I, I pumped the air for joy.

London
I drank my second pint,  as a postdoc fellow, before
peering at the target such a short
distance away.  My darts had
missed so many times that night
but this one centred true.  
I’d never hit the bullseye 
heretofore, nor ever, ever more.

Allendale, Northumberland
Wiping the clay from off the quoit, that evening
home from the research lab,
I lifted to my chin, took aim, took two steps in 
a rhythmic sequence as the quoit
swept back and through the arc
and back again to sweet release,
settling on the little pin with just a little squelch
in river clay I’d lifted when I built  the pitch.

Isle of Arran
Some day, perhaps, retired holiday, I’ll visit
Ailsa Craig, when the finest Blue Hone
granite stone is harvested, and then I’ll watch
the tradesfolk shape the stone,
affix the handle, and assess
its smoothest quality.
Perhaps I’ll make a contribution
of a pair to an adopted curling
club, north of the Border, when I’m there.

No, I am not a sportsman, but sometimes, 
sometimes I’ve felt the sweet spot for myself.  

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