Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Poem by Linda Bearss

Quitting is Not an Option

He shakes his head in disbelief
he scuffles toward the cement block wall
pulls on his team sweats, sliding
down the shoulders of the tight singlet
tugging on his hat, eyes hidden, face
shadowed—anonymity in another loss.
He sits crouched, knees up
on the bleacher’s narrow step
face buried in his hands
every time, every match
he darts out faster
strains harder
strives longer
yet the moment arrives—
the referee slaps the rubber mat
and steps back to raise the other
boy’s arm, again and again.
He has grown four inches since summer
the baby fat is melting over  his
growing muscles—girls notice
He still has that boyish face
and innocent hazel eyes at 16.
Patience is a hard win
growing and leaving
is exhausting work.
A foot taller than her
he’s the youngest of
many brothers . . . warriors.
She settles in again
perched high in the bleachers
joining the loud crowd
shouting and breathless.
This is not the moment for hugs and comfort
mothers learn as sons grow and leave.
His anger is necessary
it mocks and drives him
to learn to press longer
to stare down what he cannot yet see.
She waits and prays:
“God, give him what he needs.”
They learn in silence and sweat
he faces his own demons and
designs his next match alone
quitting cannot be an option.
She watches silently as he
pulls up the yellow straps
shakes his muscles loose
and bounces on the polished
gymnasium floor, ready
for another turn to win
weighing moves and choices
beneath the crowd’s cheers and taunts
he waits to prove himself.
Linda Bearss has published poetry as well as articles on Theodore Roethke and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Her poetry and literary analysis have appeared in several anthologies, including: The Midwest Miscellany XXXV, Midwest Miscellany XXXIV, Midwest Miscellany XXVI, Temenos: Special Roethke Edition, Of Sun and Sand, Poised in Flight, and Tic Toc (anthologies published by Kind of a Hurricane Press). She is in the process of compiling two chapbooks, Steppin’on the Cracks and Taming a Tightrope. Linda Bearss is a long term fellow of the National Writing Project and member of the Academy of American Poets. 

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