I’m third fastest in all the sprints,
fast enough to make sure Coach won’t cut me,
but, even holding back, I can’t not use my velcro hands,
and my catching nearly everything
has some of them in fists and grumbles,
until all-everything looks-like-a-rock
star defensive end Chuck Stone,
with his red, white, blue ponytailed mohawk
and all those muscles ready to pop,
cracks pads with me, again and again,
and I manage to jump to my feet,
split lip and all, like Dad taught me
all those times in the yard. That’s what turns them.

By the time my feet are needles
threading together obstacle course tires with their silky speed,
the guys are all cheering, and they act
as if I discovered a spark of leftover lightning,
like that’s what’s running through my veins.
Chuck’s there, too, in my face
with his primal scream, pounding his chest,
again and again, as if we’re celebrating fire,
as if this is some essential part of us.
Pretty soon, I’m screaming, too,
I’m pounding my chest with the rest of them.
Then Coach calls us in,
says, good job, and the guys grow silent
all the way back to the locker room.
But I know I’m part of them now,
fleet-footed receiver of the pass,
brother in blood, keeper of the flame.