Lonnie Lavender Plays Kickball
by Paul Hooker
I will remember the impossible boing sound of his foot
as it strikes the rubber ball
and the rust-colored orb air-born, soaring high over the edge
of hilltop asphalt playground
where no sixth grade foot ever sent ball or tow-headed fielder,
bouncing once on the downslope
plunging into the tangled woods at the edge of the schoolyard.
More than base-clearing homer
for our team, it is the game-ender, game-changer, lost ball gone
well beyond some boundary
we are not supposed to cross.
I will remember him as he rounds the bases, not grinning
at his impossible strength
or raising an exuberant fist, having changed with a stroke
the balance of the ballgame,
but serious, even grave, as though he knows how many times
it will be necessary—
first black kid in a white school—not to exceed expectations
but to obliterate them
’til we build bigger playgrounds.
© 2017 Paul Hooker
my oh my, paul, you’ve launched this poem like that kickball, sending it sailing beyond overhead. like every adult of our generation, i know the look, smell, heft, bounce and boing of the rust-colored kickball, as well as the bruises it left on my bare legs (dress codes being in full force back then). yet just as i started to feel like i knew this game, you sent me skittering across the grass with the “serious, even grave” expression of “the first black kid in a white school.” I didn’t see it coming, so the next “boing” i heard was the enormity of this scene, bouncing off my head. thank you.