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Boy's Poem

Reverence is a part of fear.

-- Plato, Euthyphro

His name wasn't Jack LaLanne -- but close.
Lean, lazy, a drawling ironist older than us,
sauntering backfield while we ran like zealots

beneath the hope of his pass. He smoked dope
in the basement -- till his dad called in a cop,
who arrested him right there. Then they drafted him:

suddenly stricken, he tried to build up his asthma,
trudging in wool round the damp fields after dinner.
But he got healthier; and they took him. We heard

he became a sniper, and with confused pride
we assured each other that he was "the best at it."
Playing full court next July, we saw him stroll up

in fatigues and boots; nobody said much, but we
shared the benediction of power-handshakes.
Next game he covered me -- I was so parched

my armpits were foaming this weird jizz,
but I spun like Earl the Pearl, dribbling
"betwixt and behind," tapping almost above the rim.

At point game I hitched him right, then dabbed
down the lane -- an easy hoop. Halfway through
my tomahawk he hammered me sideways, and I got up

seeing him clomp off with the ball. He bulled down
the lane and stretched toward the hoop, but low, the
long floating jump of man who's lost his spring.

The ball was lost in a canopy of arms, there was
a ragged scrum at the key and then the ball
skittered toward me like a righteous answer

and we won. I couldn't complain or celebrate --
He wasn't playing a game. I took off,
and saw him only once after that: standing in

Friendly's Ice Cream counting his change, his head
bent over his hand like his own palm reader,
a thoughtful fake suburbanite, a vault of motives. . . .

Later I heard he went back, moving in trees
or ditches, silencing households.
I began to forget him that fall,

but the milky comfort of my victory welled
within me. I skipped football and saved
my knees: I was taller than Dad even,

made varsity, and started. And when I jumped
they gave me new names, they called me
Reindeer and Blitzen, they called me

Geewee and York and Thor, I dunked
golf balls and skewed myself toward the glass,
dustdevils at my heels as I leapt cleanly.

-- David Gewanter

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