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BooksSeptember 22, 2023

The Friday Poem: ‘Basketball’ by Dan Goodwin


A new poem by Dan Goodwin.


You will be dead by 30.

You will never have close relations with friends or family. You will never have a partner.

You should drop out of university. Environments like that can be stressful. Our priority right now is to keep you alive, away from substances and off of the streets.

These are the points that stick with me after being mis-diagnosed with a psychiatric condition at 22.

To prove the doctor wrong, I stay in university and get a masters degree. A 1.1 in theatre, which is the best grade you can get in the world’s most useless subject. When friends ask why I stuck it out all the way to Masters, I tell them ‘it was to prove somebody wrong’. They tell me that’s a bad reason to stick at something for so long.

I learn a language, Scottish Gaelic, to connect me to my homeland. My Scottish uncle asks me what the point is, learning a language that’s dead. He tells me I should get English right first.

I turn 30.

I hate birthdays, but a party feels important. If only to remind myself, every second I live longer than 30, I prove a Doctor wrong. I only cry at the party a lot. But I prove the doctor wrong. My partner asks after if I enjoyed myself. I tell him that’s not the point.

Relationships have been harder to master.

To make a good impression with a poetry committee, I spend $300 on the ingredients for a dinner party. I have never cooked before so I also buy pots and pans. I make one course, Mac and Cheese and I use five different kinds of cheeses. It tastes awful.

I have two close friends who like basketball. So I try to start learning basketball. I spend a night watching reruns of Denver Nuggets and Lakers highlight reels, and what I realise is… I do not understand basketball. I make up for it by watching Space Jam.

I go back to the same doctor.

I tell him ‘everything you told me was wrong. I am 30 and still living. I have a masters degree and speak 3 languages. I cannot cook, but I live with flatmates who say my Mac and Cheese is tolerable. I have seen Space Jam three times.

Importantly though I am alive. You were wrong. I am still here.’

He looks down to his clipboard, sighs.

Looks up, defeated,


‘Well. …Just wait. They always crash eventually. It’ll happen


I will never be able to change his mind. All the incorrect statistics he has memorised. Factual information modern medicine has taught him about psychiatric patients. All stigma, stereotypes, it all amounts to one thing;

You are alone.                                                                      You will always be alone.

And when people try to love you, which they will, and you try to love them back you will not be able to.

You will know that love is there. You will feel it, in front of you, like a fire, and you will wonder why you are still so cold. So angry. For all your knowing what a fire should do, all the work you put in to stoke the flame, maintain it… You will always be cold.

So he tells me to stop trying.

I go back into the waiting room. The channel is on Sky Sports. 2nd game of the Western Conference finals. Nuggets vs Lakers. The first time Nuggets are in line for the title. Apparently.

I still don’t know basketball very well but I have seen Space Jam four times now, so I understand how important a game like this might be.

It takes a moment to figure out who everyone on the team is, and in that time I have started crying.

I really don’t get basketball.

Another person in the waiting room smiles at me. Asks if I am enjoying the game.

I say yes. She asks what team I support; I say the ones in blue.

She nods. I’m a bit like that with my husband and his rugby. Hope they’re all just having a nice time.

You want to sit down?

C’mon, sit down. You’re ok.

Shh, I’ve got you. You’re ok.

You’re ok.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are now being accepted until 30 September 2023. Please send no more than three poems in a Word document to

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