Wednesday, July 2, 2008

For Whom the Recess Bell Tolls

The yellow jumprope
shields her in a golden cocoon;
it slaps the blacktop with
a tribal beat
that inspires a tap
from even the most concrete feet.

Somewhere a child
willfully defies authority
and leaps from a swing
he's spent twenty whole Mississippis
pumping with his little legs,
higher and higher
his feet kicking the clouds,
the chains rattle behind him
when his hands let go.

In the dark shadows
of the handball court,
a shakedown:
thirty-two cents later
a bookworm crawls back
into the earth
and a bully feels about
four feet tall,
the strength of a giant.

For every child
on the basketball court
lost in the game
a dozen watch
from courtside
lost in the crowd;
wallflowers in training,
their roots in the shallow soil
of a shifting sandbox.

The longest line stretches
from the tetherball court
where every time he loses his turn
he's that much closer to learning
the lesson:
hit it just high enough
so your opponent can't reach,
but just low enough
to take another swing;
so victory becomes the old ball and chain
hanging from the top
like the new year's ball,
or a pendulum,
or a lynching.

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