‘Flankers’

I went deep into the vault for this poem that I wrote more than 20 years ago. I thought about the poem around 5:30 p.m. today, when I was walking Ringo-the-dog on the South Common in perfect October weather. The scent of dried leaves was all around. The air was just right. Sunlight intensified the red-orange maple trees. I was remembering the hundreds of games of touch football or sometimes tackle-without-equipment that my friends and I played after school in the fall until it was too dark to see outside.  What’s a flanker? Lance Alworth of the San Diego Chargers was a flanker in the 1960s; we call them wide receivers now. I always considered Del Shofner of the New York Giants a flanker more than a plain old “end.”—PM

Flankers

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Trees change at night to red, orange, rust, brown.

On long, warm afternoons my friends and I ran downfield,

catching perfect spirals, tackling each other as if trying to hurt each other,

when all we wanted was success, to be good at what we knew.

Red-gold leaves surrounded us. Our dungarees were stained green.

We flung ourselves into the test, each one measured against another,

but all stacked up against the worst the world could throw at us.

It was about order and chaos — about learning to play by rules,

about working together to finish a job, about how to use strength and brains.

To say the joy was a type within reach makes it all sound a little fancy,

but I can still see the shining faces and hear voices soaring in the open.

We ran as if our lives depended on it—and who’s sure that they haven’t?

The moves I learned back then still drive me through the day.

.

—Paul Marion (c) 2012

 

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