Indonesia v. Liverpool FC

Jakarta, July 20, 2013

Football fans - Jakarta style
Football fans – Jakarta style

Flares sizzle, hiss, and menace angry orange,

smoke pours from mouths of pounding fireworks,

and the chants and rants of frantic, unison youth

rumble and split the sticky fog of sweat and fumes.

 

On the pitch, men sprint and kick, give rise to frenzied

shouts of hordes ringing round, hordes bearing flames

and song and acrid incense, their lives tied to shoelace

and spikes in the muddy earth.  We sing and we see

 

Oh yeah, there was also a game
Oh yeah, there was also a game

the spectacle heave before us.

We are part of all we witness.

We only wanted cheap seats;

 

we only entered on a whim—aliens to two nations,

outsiders wanting only to know some new thing, but

marked so strongly by buhle skin that dozens came—

humbly with grins and cell phone cams to ask a pic.

 

smile for the camera
smile for the camera

Mister, they bow, mister a picture, and again the grin.

so we crowd and smile for the snap.  Our alien hands

embrace—across skin, across language, across lives

divided by spheres entire—what do I know of these men but

 

these smiles?  And then a flood of brights and tripods

and TV cameras come, now the mic and white light

and black lens and the questions begin: Why you

came here?  Who you cheer for?  We smile, say

 

There we are -- live on Jakarta TV
There we are — live on Jakarta TV

all too politely we came to watch a match:

We wanted to witness this life.

We’re ashamed to be favored solely for our skin

in a ring dripping with talent unnoticed, untried.

 

Just a sample of items for sale
Just a sample of items for sale

Released, we weave our way through mazes and haze

of T-shirts and frying foods, caps and noodles, horns and

rice, scarves and steamed dumplings.  We shirk the

scalpers with VIP seats: we want cheap—spots in the stands

 

and the heat and the chants, where flares burn and eyes

sting and throats crack from hours’ shouting through smoke—

while on the pitch men sprint and kick and spend themselves

for the joy of a host on a foggy night in the tropics, where four

 

Still going strong - down to the final whistle
Still going strong – down to the final whistle

foreigners come for the game but witness

the flame and the smoke and the zeal spilling

over, impromptu pictures with the populous,

and the boundless life bubbling within all.

 

I don’t remember goals scored that game—

only the unison voices deep into night’s heavy

clouds, the sting of sulfur in my eyes,

and the boy who had me sign his shirt.

Signing someone's jersey
Signing someone’s jersey
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