Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

Two poems by D. R. James

    Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash 


    Rec Rugby, 195 Years Later*


— for Maggie


Current version of the original — (plump ovoid
freshly plucked from perfectly uneven mud
and barely tucked under an arm bruised and
translucent, impatience betraying a stone-cold
determination amidst the Saturday spectacle
of leashed dogs, unleashed toddlers, discarded
coffee cups) — she blazes in momentary slo-mo
the fabled diagonal, the cut-back cleft like silence
itself, precious rift between scraps of women
transiently planted in their disparate, itinerant
dominions like lost souls hobbled or relics caged
in spent cloisters of pain and breathlessness.
Radiant with copper curls trailing like cartoon
speed lines, she floats low to avoid high tackles
by mountainous opponents, static as shrubs, their
arms outstretched like priestesses hailing incense
from a stationary brazier. Her darting, exacting
and extravagant, at first threads their clumsy perches,
aligns them like uninhabitable privets, invalidates
their drunken reactions before inexorably drawing
their defense, their flocking like bulky vultures,
and soon she’s down and underfoot, ankles, fingers,
red-haired head bright and exposed, awash among
sprawled bodies. She’s earned the dream—become
the impetus—to instigate the ruck, animate the stylized
back line, leap up and re-blossom to stave off defeat.


*Legend has it that in 1823 sixteen-year-old William Webb Ellis, impatient with the slow pace of a Rugby School football game, was the first player to pick up the then round ball and run with it.



    True North


The lone crow on the lone pole
where the weathervane used to whirl
insinuates my need for misdirection.

He is an arrow of skittish attention,
of scant intention: the cock and hop,
the flick and caw toward anything

on the wind. Now angling east, now
south by southwest, he designates
with beak then disagreeing tail feathers,

with a lean-to and a shoulder scrunch,
with an attitude from his beady black eye—
as if he were ever the one to judge.

And once he’s spun like a pin on a binnacle
past all points of some madcap inner compass—
once the clouds have bowed to push on

and the grasses waved their gratefulness—
he unfurls the shifty sails of his wings,
and the breeze relieves him of his post.