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What I Don't Know About Soccer
by
Diana Anhalt


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would fill a stadium. At least, that's what my nephew thinks:
Tia, you don't even know what a penalty is. Stolid on little boy
legs, arms out-spread, he guards the goal post––a hassock
and kitchen stool set three feet apart––his uniform Mexico's colors,
green, red, white.
 
Clothed in baggy kneed tights, tie-dyed tee-shirt, pink curlers,
and wariness, I defend the other end, flanked by two chairs.
He dodges across the room, urging the ball forward. I block,
dislodge it from his instep, sideswipe and send it weaving
drunkenly between the chairs. GOOOOOOAL! Hey. I scored! 
Yeah. It's mine. That's my goal, tia. One-zero.
 
I toss him the ball from the sideline. He blocks it with his knee,
teases it across the linoleum, easing it into the end zone. 
It skids by me. GOOOOOOAL! He raises his hands above his head, 
spreads his fingers into vees. Two-zero. Yay! Hooray! 
Gosh, you're terrible, tia. He's right. My incompetence boggles.
                                                                       
What I don't know about soccer would fuel legends.
What I do know are the mornings tasting of wind,
sand, and crushed spring grass slippery underfoot,
the itch of sun-dried mud on bare flesh, 
sweat-stung eyes, the vain jabs at an elusive ball
caught in a thicket of legs, the throb of a bruised shin, of defeat.
 
I also know that moment when the field spreads out before you,
lonely as a blank page and the ball squirms free.
You're dribbling. Ball bonds with foot. Heart-thump matches
foot-fall, and you're tugged goal-ward as if by a force outside your self.
You pass, receive and pass again in a pattern as fluid as speech, 
with a symmetry all its own.
 
No. I will not tell him. Some things cannot be taught.
I only hope he grows to meet that instant, startling as a slap,
when your body rises skyward, and the ball jolts
against your forehead with a thud, with the urgency of inspiration—
Athena springing full-blown from Zeus's head,
the moment when header becomes poem.
 
From Shiny Objects (2002). This poem first appeared in The Comstock Review (Spring/Summer 2002, Vol. 16, #1).
Used here with the author’s permission.
Purchase a framed print of this poem.


Born in New York into a family of wanderers, Diana Anhalt lived in Mexico for most of her life. A few years ago, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and, since then, she says, "all I've been able to write about is Mexico." A former high school teacher, editor, and civic leader, Diana is the author of a nonfiction book, three poetry chapbooks, and numerous essays, short stories, and book reviews in both English and Spanish.

 

 


Post New Comment:
susan florence:
I love the kitchen as soccer field scene and especially what the poet is wearing. I can see it all, the action and then I feel the deep understanding that, "some things cannot be taught." diana you scored with this poem. love it! susan florence
Posted 05/26/2014 06:16 PM
Ross Kightly:
The unmistakeable aroma of ozone that is left only by the passage - at Mach 44 - of a creative moment! And the stadium filled with my ignorance about football [and most sports] would be far bigger than yours!
Posted 05/24/2014 12:51 AM
poetronics:
Brava Diana. A real tour de force. GOOOOOOAL!!!!!!
Posted 05/23/2014 02:49 PM
pwax:
You are a master at the poetically unsaid. What a lucky nino.
Posted 05/23/2014 11:47 AM
Katrina:
Gorgeous! I want one.
Posted 05/23/2014 09:04 AM
mjorlock:
Wow! Thia poem scores big on my scale--from the tiny domestic details of the first stanzas to the mythic scope of the last. Everything works together beautifully.
Posted 05/23/2014 08:07 AM


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