The last volley of friendly guns has gone, rumbling, earth-shuddering, echoing away
Leaving an awkward silence.
Straining ears find the sound of falling raindrops
Pinging like hammer blows onto a blacksmith’s helmet
The musty smell of sodden wool rises from the tunic of a shepherd
And mingles with apple-sweet rifle oil on a nurseryman’s carbine.
Smoke curls from the groom’s flared nostrils as he takes a final pull on his pipe
The lamplighter grips the rungs of his ladder, squinting up into the rain
“Lovely day for it” mutters the farrier, shuffling ankle-deep, mud-shod.
The butcher’s bowels tightening and twisting sausages inside him
The bowed head of the pallbearer, averting his gaze
The seconds ticking down on the referee’s watch.
Till suddenly: no extra-time, no replays,
Just one, long, shrill blast,
And it all kicks off.