by P.S. Dean
Not even noon, and the sun brands
the practice fields with its mark —
you slap the goalpost’s hot metal
and hustle back into the huddle.
You can’t drop another pass,
believe you’ll puke up a lung
from this disciplined running,
not an ounce of pride left in you.
After flipping tractor tires
up a hill for twenty minutes,
the coach calls the team up
to midfield for a meeting.
He disappears behind bleachers
and holds up the glinting metal
of an old battle saber, saying
This to thine enemy, boys.
When you take off the day’s armor —
helmet and shoulder pads —
you strip down naked and scrub
off the mud and sweat, wish
that you didn’t have to exist
in this time of blood
and its dirty language left
to circle the shower’s drain.
By now, the locker room
is a storm of hissing showers.
You dream of a different life,
where your head stays healed
from the inside and your father
grows like a tree even after death.
Driving home in the dark,
you see the outline of a sword
stuck in the turf at midfield, shadow
stretched out under the hot lights.
P.S. Dean is originally from Jackson and received an MFA in poetry from the University of Mississippi in 2013. Currently, he lives and teaches in New Orleans. This poems was part of his thesis manuscript.