Small towns can hide secrets, as they do in Scott Hightower’s poem.
The first minutes of gym we have
to hurry to our coach who stands
on the glossy blond gym floor.
His left hand and hairy arm
curl around a clipboard;
a corner of his cruel
mouth clenches a whistle.
Come spring, he and his assistant
have us pile into the back
of a couple of pick-ups. They drive us
down a caliche road and put us out.
This used to be “Recess!”
As he sets his watch. Coach,
both a married man and a father,
mumbles things derogatory––
but meant to be motivational––
about “candy asses,” “pansies,”
“pantie waists.” It will be years
before several of my closest friends
confess, each in confidence,
to having clandestinely
“hooked up” with him.
As he and his assistant drive back
to school, we run the country road.
I know the names of the ranches:
The Herrings, the Conrads, the Kirbys,
the Kincheloes, the Owens,
the Old Adams Place. (Nobody
calls them that anymore but me;
And when I do, only old people
know what I’m talking about.)
We sweat and stretch out our strides.
The brittle road crunches beneath our feet,
the scrub and live oaks passing. It is
a pleasure to push until our muscles burn,
all the while, our lungs bellowing air;
a small pack of boys, ephebes, our small
town’s unsullied brood, proud bantams.
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Photo by Rennett Stowe /Flickr