Fall, Nebraska

From Inklings: Poems Old and New. Sandhill Press, 2001.

He wears bull’s bones with hyacinthine curls
above his eyes, the weight of forever
swinging back and forth between his legs;
he talks offensively about his upper arms.

In bed, his headphones on, he listens
to a brutal bass for hours, then rises,
eating on the run. But 30 universities
are interested in him. Even the governor

has graced his palm. At night, when cruising
Man, that four-block, dim-lit thoroughfare
of town, the sirens come to him. His fever
climbs, odes written on his glands,

the re-tooled motor of his Mustang sings.
It all started gloriously enough in Little League,
when suffering his faithful parents to come
to him, he stood in trophied grace along

the third-base line. It was there he
accepted the United Way’s Outstanding Midget
of the Year. Now a dozen coaches have visited
his home, the gifts are in. No tripods

of Homeric gold, no talking stallions, concubines.
These the NCAA denies. Only an athletic dorm,
un-spartan, and a chance for immortality on
some warm afternoon, the bards on high,

his helmet bronzed and blazing in the sun.
Fated by talent, public taste, and newspapers
which say he’s more important than bodies
terrorized and dumped from jets, he takes the field.

A current of blood fury courses through his veins,
the outcome’s knotted in his gut, the dream
of who he is, and was, in doubt. And who
cares if the kid himself can barely read,

there are better uses for his breath.
This coliseum’s his home, each coach his guardian,
and this is his life after death.

Used with the permission of Don Welch

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