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