We report for practice, falling back
into the routine we’ve known for years:
Under the sun’s swelter, the other boys
tug off their shirts, twist them like bread ties
through the fence’s geodes. I keep mine on,
though it drags with sweat every time Coach,
pacing like a dog chained to a post,
grunts, “Swing through, damnit,” and I swing through.
When we break for water, waiting in a horned moon
for the first drops to fall from the rusted pump,
I know not to stare at my friends’ torpedoed torsos,
envy at how soft I feel next to them.
My side jerks, and I look down to see Coach,
his fingers pinching a flap of fat just above my hip,
smile purling his thin lips. “You oughta lose a few pounds,
ya know.” My friends stand rigid as the fence poles,
no water crashing down, no one saying anything.
Kirk Schlueter received his MFA in poetry at Southern Illinois-University Carbondale. His poetry has been a finalist for the Rattle Prize, the Indiana Review Poetry Prize and the Yemassee Prize. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Rattle, Nimrod, Ninth Letter, Natural Bridge, Green Mountains Review, Zone 3, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Connotation Press, and Gulf Stream among others. He has been awarded a full scholarship to the NYS Summer Writers Institute, and has been part of the Hungry Young Poets Reading Series. He currently lives, teaches, and writes in St. Louis.