On International Poetry Day, please enjoy The Kia Oval’s very own poem.
‘Oval Time’ was written by poet Zaffar Kunial, who attended the 2019 Test Match as part of the nationwide ‘Places of Poetry‘ festival, creating this after his experience.
During his time at the match, Zaffar spent time with fans, Members and staff, had tea with former Club President Sir John Major, helped the ground staff tend the wicket between innings and read poetry on the Today Programme. Zaffar has also written ‘Six’, a pamphlet of other poems inspired by our game.
Other venues and parts of the country to participate in the festival included Stonehenge, Ely Cathedral, Caernarfon Castle, the Roman Baths in Bath, the Big Pit National Coal Museum, the Byker Community Trust in Newcastle, Hadrian’s Wall and Sherwood Forest.
by Zaffar Kunial
I forget that cricket grounds exist in winter
seeing out snow and floating in fog.
I forget that the ground’s been there almost forever
and curling around it like a finger
pointing at the wrought-iron gasholder, a buried river
leaving a curve, the Effra.
A road like a brooch around an opal.
The Kennington Oval.
The O of a cambered surface that drains the water
like an upturned saucer, keeping the clay dry
in the middle. The filled O of the rolled field, its subtle
four-tone tartan. Green. Green. Green. And green.
The O of a crowd in the shade. The eternal
O of a roped boundary. The O
of a century. A double century. Bradman’s duck.
The O of their open mouths watching
a last innings. A last Test. Of not knowing
how many summers you’ll have left.
Of the tilted earth, of an arc, of orbiting the sun
around an invisible seam. The long-repeating
wide-brimmed O, as a river of white sunhats streams
in summer from the Vauxhall tube. The shaken
O of an unstopped urn, as a life’s dust is tipped over
the stumpless wicket, in winter, and atoms drift and turn
up towards the gods, towards the favourite seats
where days happened and stuck.
Time unfolds again and again from the crease. Fielders
stand with their well-ironed shadows. Grace
takes guard, where a bearded man he can’t see called Ali
takes a hat-trick. An event horizon where Richards
has more time at the crease, sees the ball a nano-
second sooner. Where twitchy Smith stares into history
and bobs like a bird, a wagtail or a dipper
half-sitting, half-standing as if stubbornly over
an egg. Sure as an egg timer. Over and over. The O
of a decommissioned gasholder, of a crowd’s open silence,
of a NO shouted at the non-striker’s end. The O
behind that held-up, white, skeletal glove.
NO. STAY THERE.
The O of that palm, creased like a river.