Christopher Merrill – A Boy Juggling a Soccer Ball

Christopher Merrill is an American Poet, essayist and a translator. He was born in the year 1957. He has published six collections of poetry including Brilliant Water and Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Award from the Academy of American Poets. His work has translated into twenty five languages and his journalism appears in many publications.

Christopher Merrill, A Boy Juggling a Soccer Ballis poem that paints an elaborate scene of bouncing a soccer ball about. It is a solo practice through which one learns ball control touches. The poem describes a boy who stays back on the field, after probably practicing with others, to juggle. It describes each move he makes and the transion as he attempts to better his juggling skills. The major theme of the poem is that practice makes perfect. The poet seems intent on passing across the message that just as it is with all sports, it takes hard work and dedication to better oneself; therefore bettering the team.

The diction of the poem is formal. Christopher Merrill adopts this formal diction so as to to depict the seriousness and dedication the the player has for soccer that has driven him to try and do more on his juggling skills. Remember that the boy decides to juggle after practice as indicated in line one of the poem. He engaged in individual practice after practicing with the the others in the team hence dedication and love for what he loves most. The diction being formal then shows that the tone of the poem is serious. Serious in the sense that the player is dedicated and focussed to succeed and keeps pushing on. The seriuos tone gives the readerthe sense of focusthe boy is using to control the ball.

There are a number of symbols in the poem. The juggling takes place amid the hot sun in summer. The poet in line 22 talks of blades of brown grass in summer heat. Despite the heat the boy persistently goes ahead to learn to perfect his juggling skills. The hot sun in summer signifies the difficult conditions the boy endures  in order to succeed in soccer or to do better in what the loves most.

The rainbow that the poet introduces towards the end of the poem in the context of this poem symbolises hope. It is an extraodinary symbol of following the desires of our hearts and purpose. It can also symbolise fulfillment. Theres hope that hard work, dedication and persistence of the boy juggling is bound to be rewarded. Through juggling repeatedly, the boy gets some fulfilment because he perfects the skills. The boy should hold onto hope of success. It serves as a guide to the desires of the boy.

The boy juggles the boy around an empty field. The empty field symbolises that success can in a way be narrowed down to mean that success is a personal matter, out of personal effort. An idividual’s effort can lead to success. That other than working with others as a team, one should also  put in his personal best to succeed.

The line “down the inside of his leg, like like a tickle of of sweat,” is also symbolic.  It symbolises how the ball and the boy (player) are one  person, giving the ball the quality of nature.

There is irony in the poem. Soccer entails teamwork but from this poem we see one boy in an empty field practising skills that are essential in soccer. It is also ironical that this player embarks on juggling after practice yet juggling itself part and parcel of practice. Additionally, soccer is loved by people all over the world and we expect that in this field there should have been soccer lovers to cheer him up but alas! The fourth last line reads; “of summer, around an empty field.” The very last line also attracted my curoisity, “as he wanders, on the last day.” Why do all the practice on the last day and more  so after the practice?!

The poet employs an ‘observer’ as a speaker in this poem. The  speaker sees everything that the boy does with regard to juggling the soccer ball. He therefore is omnipresent in this case. The use of the second person pronouns reiforces this. There isthe use of words like; on his thigh as he twists… line 4, the inside of his leg … line 7. These pronouns also characterise the rest of the poem.

The juggling of the ball takes place, ‘around an empty field…’fourth last line. This is the setting of this beautiful poem. The situation that the poet presents therefore is some kind of solo effort. One person in a an empty fielddoing what he loves most. A sense of dedication, hardwork and commitment comes out at this point.

To conclude therefore, the poem is about practice that leads to perfection. In the poem, the author uses repetition to describe the moments of repetition. The diction is formal hence making the tone seriuos because we see a sense of focus that comes from the boy as he controls the ball. Towards the end of the poem, the poet describes the hot summer day the boy is enduring in order to attain perfection and ultimately success. With this description, the boy misses the ball but rather than dread on it he uses a trick to get it back on air and continue juggling. The poem goes full circle. In life we should learn to continuosly work towards ensuring that we strive to perfect what we love most that is, bettering our best. Whenever we falter it is always advisable to pick the pieces and continue for there is hope at the end of it all no matter the difficult situation that is bound to confront us in pursuit of our goals. Focus, determination, practice and perfection should be our clarion call and forever our guiding principle in life.

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