General Poetry posted August 3, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
A summer of touch football

Sandlot Football

by Theodore McDowell

That summer we lived at the dirt field
behind the white Baptist church.
Shirts versus skins.
Imaginary goal lines, football
stolen from a high school shed.
Neighborhood girls
high stepped on the sidelines
or smoked on metal bleachers
in front of azaleas white as innocence.

Plays drawn and erased in loose dirt,
sacred as forgiveness
etched by Jesus with a stick.
Poised at the line of scrimmage,
prepared to channel our heroes
into stance and stride,
the snap released us
left, right, across the middle,
swarming for glory.
Body sparked against body,
blocking smaller boys to the ground
like sixteen-pound hammers
driving home railroad spikes.

We left skin, sweat, and salt in the dirt,
tasted blood and a hint of manhood
in our mouths,
crushed butterflies in our stomachs
when we glanced at the girls.
After the ball blurred with dusk,
girls mingled with boys
on a make-believe dance floor,
a radio stirred us
to bump and grind,
intent on fumbling with sin.
We roughly kissed the girls
as if we were marking them
with a branding iron,
until we learned tenderness,
their lips could soothe the pain
of defeat and victory from our eyes.



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