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A Boy Juggling a Soccer Ball

2006-09-08 09:22

    after practice: right foot

    to left foot, stepping forward and back,

    to right foot and left foot,

    and left foot up to his thigh, holding

    it on his thigh as he twists

    around in a circle, until it rolls

    down the inside of his leg,

    like a tickle of sweat, not catching

    and tapping on the soft

    side of his foot, and juggling

    once, twice, three times,

    hopping on one foot like a jump-roper

    in the gym, now trapping

    and holding the ball in midair,

    balancing it on the instep

    of his weak left foot, stepping forward

    and forward and back, then

    lifting it overhead until it hangs there;

    and squaring off his body,

    he keeps the ball aloft with a nudge

    of his neck, heading it

    from side to side, softer and softer,

    like a dying refrain,

    until the ball, slowing, balances

    itself on his hairline,

    the hot sun and sweat filling his eyes

    as he jiggles this way

    and that, then flicking it up gently,

    hunching his shoulders

    and tilting his head back, he traps it

    in the hollow of his neck,

    and bending at the waist, sees his shadow,

    his dangling T-shirt, the bent

    blades of brown grass in summer heat;

    and relaxing, the ball slipping

    down his back. . .and missing his foot.

    He wheels around, he marches

    over the ball, as if it were a rock

    he stumbled into, and pressing

    his left foot against it, he pushes it

    against the inside of his right

    until it pops into the air, is heeled

    over his head——the rainbow!——

    and settles on his extended thigh before

    rolling over his knee and down

    his shin, so he can juggle it again

    from his left foot to his right foot

    ——and right foot to left foot to thigh——

    as he wanders, on the last day

    of summer, around the empty field.

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