Bird in Hand

By Richard Williams


The FA Cup 1939 – 2008

We drink in the presence of greatness.

A glorious bird of paradise

that fills the room with life.

Wanderers to Portsmouth all roads between,

a coach trip ride through hedge-screened fields.


This monochrome world that we engraved

as so many lives were sliding past.

Waiting for the blackout to end,

as if nothing we did really mattered,

as if watching was all that there was.


So we taped up all the windows,

made do with any small victory,

turned out the lights and kept quiet.

As the radio spat static and crackled,

keeping our hopes in the dark.


And here we are only nine months on,

a country pub where they kept it safe

for five lost years as the city burned,

payloads emptied on a scrap of earth.

Abide with me all flags at half mast.


Abide with me and a sea of blue.

Wembley stadium and Kanu scores,

forty-something men so close to tears,

my daughters and I in our Pompey shirts.

The final whistle on a perfect day.


And here we are on the journey home,

brilliant colours will fade to none,

as the flags we carry are furled away.

Like Tommy Rowe at ninety-two

leaving all thoughts in the dark.


So drink to the presence of greatness,

for everything you do really matters.

Enjoy all of your victories.

Turn on the lights and sing out,

for living is all that there is.