Originally published in Terminus, issue 1, 2002
I hold this game to be self-evident.
The muffled whump as the rust-red ball
Rockets past your head into the padded wall;
Sound of twenty classmates trying to squeeze
Into a corner of the gym, to blend;
That time you caught John Jacobs in the knees.
Maybe its detractors couldn’t dodge.
Maybe it was the savage truth it held:
That to feel good, another must be felled;
That the ball, democratizer of death,
Came alive in your hands like a live charge
At the school dance. One moment of held breath
Before you loosed the cannon on the crowd.
Then—whap!—a victory, or the dying fall
Of a wasted shot. And that was all,
Until it started up again, your turn
To dodge, to live within the classmates’ shroud
Across the wall, in fear of dodgeball burn.
And now it is a flashcard of the past,
A pick-up game of dusk and empty lots—
Its rules a generation’s Rorschach blots,
Until it alters into nothing, dies:
The fate of childhood’s every game, as fast
As wall to wall the fiery dodgeball flies.