Sherod Santos

1948 / Greenville, South Carolina

The Air Base at Châteauroux, France

In the American schoolyard
where we lunged headfirst
onto the rocky ground scrab-
bling for a ball
as if
for love, the crossed chalk-
line still electrified our
tough boyish hearts, and no
one much cared
for such
exotic gods as loomed up
out of the Palatine Hills
in the required guidebooks
dumped in heaps
behind our
makeshift goal. We knew
what we knew. Sweatstains
darkened our blue school
shirts while
our fathers'
fighters strafed the mock-
ups in the practice fields,
never far enough from town
it didn't thunder
all day
through the blackened
cottages' stony stares locked
up tight behind their shot
bolts; nor through
the evening,
either, when drifting home,
stripped to the waist, we'd
dance feet-chalked across
the marketplace
like young,
uneasy gods, a little drunk
on our shame, our power.
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