Saturday, July 2, 2016

Poems I Admire #15

Nerf Football

We stood, arms draped over shoulders,
Billy’s hand held like a tarot reader,
palm up, tracing patterns: down and out,
a quick slant. He looked at me, “You go long.”

We set our piston legs, the invisible line
between us and other boys eager to show
whatever it shows when bodies collide.
Billy’s voice released us, our feet stretching

for purchase, eyes pleading we could make the play.
The ball was a sudden bird, a yellow and blue spiral
across thunderclouds. I leaned my shoulders
into the wind, head angled back to watch

the ball descend, my palms cupped for an offereing,
the boys a peripheral blur, as if we were already
running away from each other. I laid out
for his Hail Mary and when the ball tipped
my fingers, tumbled out of reach

it was as unimportant as any other failure
and yet I still sometimes wake, thinking
of the way they turned, shoulders hung,
shaking their heads, as if I’d called the rain
that had slowly started to fall.

First appeared in Little Patuxent Review – Winter 2013

P. Ivan Young received his M. F. A. from the University of South Carolina and is the author of Smell of Salt, Ghost of Rain (Brick House Books, 2015) and the chapbook A Shape in the Waves. He is a recipient of a 2011 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award and the 2013 winner of the Norton Girault Literary Prize. His work has appeared in North American Review, Crab Orchard Review, Fourteen Hills, Hayden's Ferry Review, The London Magazine, Cream City Review, and Zone 3, among others. He currently teaches in the University of Nebraska system and lives in Omaha, Nebraska , with his wife and two children.

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