December 19, 2018KR OnlinePoetry

Jocks

The back row in American History,
already wearing away uniforms
under our warm-ups, popping purple gum,
some of us in lipstick stolen from our mothers,
others mistaken for our younger brothers,
with buzz cuts, cornrows, jacked-up ponytails,
we didn’t care about the presidents.
We cut out early in a seamless blitz
of nylon sheen. Our thighs were staggering,
our stretches legendary: counting four,
five, sex, we swore we saw the bleachers flinch.
We licked our palms and rubbed our sneakers clean
and couldn’t stand the Pentecostal teams
with their set shots and culottes—what was worse
than modesty? And who could top our coach,
destroying clipboards, screaming, GET YOUR MAN!,
whose fury was the only compliment
we’d ever trusted? Most of us believed
that suffrage meant collective suffering.
We weren’t discerning but we weren’t unsure.
Our trick plays worked. We wore each other’s sweat.
Our pregnant captain didn’t know it yet.

Photo of Caki Wilkinson
Caki Wilkinson is the author of the poetry collections Circles Where the Head Should Be (University of North Texas Press, 2011), which won the Vassar Miller Prize, and The Wynona Stone Poems (Persea Books, 2015), which won the Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award. Her new work has appeared in Yale Review, Nation, Crazyhorse, and other magazines. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee.