More Thoughts on Football

I should have posted this poem in October. But since I'm on a football jag now, here's a famous poem about what young men are channeling when they play football. Written in 1964, it includes some offensive language from its era. But I love this poem and have known it by heart for decades.

Autumn Begins in Martin's Ferry, Ohio

--James Wright

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other's bodies.


Here's one, from my great teacher James T. Whitehead, aka Big Jim, who also was fond of James Wright (as am I). It may not be to your tastes, but there you have it. My friend Chris Boese comments on it here:

Good Linemen Live in a Closed World

Good linemen live in a closed world -- they move
Inside themselves to move themselves against
The others and their violence -- they give
To interior visions whole seasons no good sense
Would approve -- their insides creak and groan, crying
A thing that's trapped along the line is shrill
And curious and wants out. Bodies playing
Laugh and dream to gain the massive will
Their trade requires. These men maintain, they attack,
They suffer repetition for years and years.
Part war and similar to art, their work
Is sometimes elegant. Inside their fears
At the closed center of one fear, they move
Quickly against themselves with a massive love.

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