The English Game by Char March

3am. Nurse Armitage’s
tiptoes are the neat clack
of cue ball on red.

That slight lag
in her step
at Guillaume’s bed.

That quick double pat
on his leg-cushion –
a small separation must be maintained.

The plaster ceiling is as complex
as aerial maps of Ypres –
I execute a raid

from fleur de lis
to Tudor rose:
a stalemate of abutments.

I hazard a cannon shot,
clearing all pockets
of the Hun:

a grenade into the dugout
by the chandelier –
unsportsmanlike behaviour.

I finger the stub that is my leg.
An act of God but,
thank God,

leaving both my balls in baulk.


Notes:  Another name for Billiards is The English Game.  Soldiers in the ‘lying-down ward’ gazed up at Temple Newsam’s ornate plaster ceiling and would hear tales from soldiers in the ‘ambulant ward’ about them winning the Inter-Hospitals Billiards Championship.  They won this twice, and it became a very important pass-time for soldiers at Temple Newsam.

While working with different groups of writers at Temple Newsam, I gave them vocabulary from The Official Rules of Billiards to integrate into their poetry about when Temple Newsam was used as a WW1 hospital.