48-minutes to play, lifetime to remember: that slogan is everywhere, gas stations to Walmart. It's like Yahweh himself tattooed the text onto glass windows overnight. Blessings from above.
Over Thanksgiving, I went back to the birthplace of a story, a poem, a belief: I went back to my high school's football field. I realized that without the field, Stampede Stadium, there wouldn't have been pain, and without pain there wouldn't have been this moment when I remembered the fear of being forgotten.
I still remember the games, sort of. The achievements, vaguely. But no one else does; if they do, they don't write about it. But even if they think about it they're just as bad as me. If you remember high school sports, and those recollections fuel your lifetime, you're just an old dog chewing on a bone no one else wants, and it's the taste that lasts a lifetime. But that's what boys want, that's what their parents want, and that's what school officials want.
Sometimes I think I'm the only person to write about Florence, Texas, especially its high school football teams, and the 48-minutes that last an entire lifetime, even though that's like saying an eaten apple ruined the world. And like high school football, people make a religion out of that.
"Namakutzu: To the Townies"
The crowd with chilled hands over their chests
stands up for whatever America they stood for
during the national anthem.
Twitching like addicts
with not enough stimulants,
parents demand blocking and blood.
Screams spread the battlefield
green and grown by spurt sprinklers
Some pray for salvation from a losing season
only after team prayers to foam-fingered God.
Friday night’s effulgent bulbs cast over
teenagers under face masks with salty pores,
Gatorade drunk bones from mobile homes:
shadows snug in snapped shoulder pads,
barely aged entertainers huddle before
their fiberglass bovine idol.
In girdles, lower class kids in chinstraps see
past cheerleaders shaved to the gleam.
Practicing for this tremendous joy in jockstraps
in the name and pursuit of Texas truth: post-season.
On the line—all is on the line in the fourth quarter.
Post-game beer doesn’t matter, only a twenty-yard field goal.
Fingers on the scrimmage.
Toes to swine skin, stitches sail.
Knees and grunts erupt against elbows and joints.
Boys battle stranger’s bodies,
they’ll never meet their minds.
Both screams from bleachers and brass from the band cease.
The ball passes
outside the left post.
No points. No post-season. No passion
The last whistle rattles
shoes and boots down aluminum stairs
as wedding cans on rental cars.
The lights die blind.
The losing side, sweaty, sore and young, sit
in still-tied laces in bored wood locker room,
shoulder pad to shoulder pad, knee cap to knee cap,
sucking at temporary death.
They don’t share caskets,
just towels and shower heads.
With licenses, gas pedals, clutches,
six packs, females and such, each kid
could have escaped after great lights
winked away, but they want to stay.
Wanting more grass stains,
muscle strains, great lights;
patches, proms, bronze thighs
more bright lights.
18-year old eyes and faces sit in laces, mourning lost
out of town matches, calisthenics, coach’s madness.
Like the iron crosses cried to at every
boys sit as rust crawls up plastic cleats.
Age sets in.
Salvation from parents praying to Jesus’s death sentence
for any post-season.
Nothing but jacket patches
keeps them together.
Some seek great things, some desire
small things. But boys want back
Out of luck, out of end zones,
nearly out of parent’s homes,
Buffaloes were off green pastures
and off to slaughterhouses.