The Importance of Football

Jeremy Voigt

Since I have cultivated a dislike for football
   for as long as I can remember, never playing
      or watching, and since I can make nothing

of the nomenclature of X’s and O’s my coach
   friend obsesses over like a monk in his cell,
      I carry the quip I read in a magazine years

ago declaring that football practices and perfects
   the two worst things in American culture:
      violence and committee meetings,

but the afternoon I slapped that phrase across
   the overly intense, fully uniformed student’s
      face when he would not, I mean, would not

stop interrupting my analysis of Wright’s Pollacks
   and their long beers—he loved
that part—
      to tell me there was no terrible galloping,

but only the glory handed down to him by his father
   through the rusted truck nights tossing hay
      at the river, and running into padded practice

trees cut down now to pay the mortgage to keep
   the heifers in their straight, formidable lines,
      their backs a drooping chain measuring

the distances gained and wished for; it was then
   I realized his older brother drove the truck
      through the parking lot flying the six foot

Confederate flag from the bed the day after
   Obama was elected, and I now know I said it
      because I wanted to bruise something unpadded

within him, to make swell and ache the mischief
   that is his with the mischief that is mine,
      the sorrow that is his, is mine, and I realize

that I lied to him, I did play football once in fifth grade,
   because I loved the teacher who was the all-time
      quarterback, a huge man throwing a ball

at small boys running wild on a field without lines.