Jacknife/2

Elizabeth Philips

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Each day, I am apprenticed to the boy

I want to be.

 

He rifles the ball

and I catch it

 

or I fumble.

His red head ducks and weaves,

 

thinking, end zone.

I tag him

 

or I don’t.

He swaggers

 

no matter what.

With the deftness

 

of a novice

I’ve learned the language

 

that drives us

toward that hallowed

 

and to no mind

imaginary

 

goal line.

Fuck! is the sound of

 

the ball,

well-kicked, or a pass,

 

snagged

out of the achingly fresh

 

October air.

The boy I want to be

 

is the one who slams me

into the chain-link fence

 

(nascent breasts

like crushed buds)

 

because I won’t

stay on the sidelines,

 

cheering,

or skip rope and sing

 

with the other girls

in the lee of the school.

Elizabeth Phillips, "Jacknife/2" from Torch River. Copyright © 2007 by Elizabeth Phillips. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: Torch River (Brick Books, 2007)