running the trap
BY ROB SHAPIRO
Football pads strapped on, the two of us trucked
into each other all through summer. We ran three miles
before breakfast, muddied our cleats in the rain,
found islands of bruises floating on our biceps.
We were on the same offensive line—
both undersized but quick—and when we ran
a trap up the gut, I’d pull away from the boy
I lined up against to block whoever bull-rushed you.
I remember how your hair fell over your eyes beneath
your helmet, how we were both still growing into our bodies—
this was before we left for college; before you were stripped
of your scholarship and sentenced without parole.
This was the summer we each broke a finger
and drove the sled with free-weights chained to our hips—
the summer we learned how to listen
for footsteps racing toward us, how to never flinch.
In the dream, a woman
jumps off a building, slips
through the breeze
and comes apart like a comet
entering the atmosphere.
The crowd is pointing up
and I’m running out
trying to catch her
though I know I won’t.
When she hits pavement
I can’t see her face,
can only wake up
I didn’t give her wings.
During my lunch break, I walk out onto the Potomac
though the weatherman said spring
is at last hot on our heels. I sip my coffee
and tap the ice with the toe of my boot.
I throw a stone halfway to Virginia.
It’s been a year since I read about the girl
found floating in reeds, and I think again of baby Moses,
how lucky he was to be delivered into safe arms.
I remember reading bungee cords and slashed.
I read boyfriend and then I read your name.
when a player ran his mouth
or didn’t follow orders
our team ran wind sprints
up and down the field
felt like swimming,
until the cavities in our chests
And all the while,
coach would stand on the sidelines
pointing at the stampede of boys,
a thick arm around the loudmouth,
Don’t look away.
That same summer, one by one,
I hauled stones, set them on top of each other.
I brushed away the ivy and leaves,
stacked the heap high, a new wall in my mother’s garden.
Bleeding hearts and phlox in beds, I jammed
rocks that didn’t belong together
together, packed them as tight as I could,
building with pieces I could never precisely fit.
By fall, we ended practice each night with Oklahomas.
The team circled around two boys who were told
not to hold back, to lower their chins and shoulders
and really plow into each other, hurt each other.
In those circles we yelled until we were lightheaded,
roses of smoke rising from our helmets where our
mouths would be. Sometimes, you and I were matched up—
hands dug in the trench, stadium lights lit, bodies aligned—
forced to collide, to hold each other for that instant
of contact before pushing back, one of us dropping.
Afterwards, we took off our helmets and our pads;
we felt the sweat run down our backs, the veins climbing
our forearms like small vines. And how small
we looked then: huddled beneath the November stars
sprayed like shrapnel, perfect in the violet sky.
punk (la vie antérieure)
BY ROB SHAPIRO
Small, kept in basements, our voices
are hard to hear over the cassette’s soft whir,
guitar notes bleeding out, riot of cymbals
crashing. All summer we practiced, sweat
through our shirts until we stripped; we tore
the knees out of our Levis to look
like Johnny Ramone and spent nights
getting lit downtown. The sound of nothing
on the tape is a low drone, rain on water—
laughter unravels like smoke and is gone.
We could feel ourselves changing
into something bright and sinister and starry;
we relearned our bodies, their furious constellations.
When we count off again, listen to how big
we try to make ourselves, how we never
quite fill the room—power chords feeding back,
the kick drum’s beaten skin—while outside
birdsong, the heat breaking;
a mute sky turning over until it broke too.
Rob Shapiro is an MFA candidate at the University of Virginia where he was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize. His work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The Southern Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, River Styx, Blackbird, and The Greensboro Review among other journals. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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