Down forty to zero in the first quarter
Is like dealing with the lengthy illness

Of someone he cared for deeply—
Time to talk, laugh, and grieve.


Still in the water waiting for the last
Competitor to touch the pad, she tastes

Unlike the victor that familiar trace of iron
And smoke on the back of the tongue.


Worried that he’s taking the playoff loss
Too hard, his father tracks him down

In the weeds behind the barn to find him
Constructing a fortress from plywood scraps.


By late July and with still no word even from
Junior colleges, he attempts to piece together

Every second of what was now his last game—
The minutes, the substitutions, the cheers.


From her car window on the edge of the course,
She spots him alone on the fourteenth green

Bundled in a heavy coat putting with gloves on,
Then walking with head down against the wind.


What she learned was standing her ground.
One’s territory is to be protected at all costs,

She reflects as she drives beyond the fields
Into the vast open country burned by the sun.

Track and Field

He thinks as he rolls out of bed just before noon
One should have a tape at the conclusion

Of every challenge, with a timer to jot down
How well you did, and a coach to chew your ass.


Each day after her final match she passes the court
And takes a quick glance to gauge the right time

To begin hitting balls, maybe testing her serve.
Today? No, definitely not today. Not quite yet.


He misses the clarity of mind and spirit,
That focus that made even his vision acute.

Lately his thoughts assume a battle stance,
Stalling with one reversal after another.


Steak tastes better when it costs a broken arm
Or bruised hip. Even the air is clearer as he now

Walks among horses against which he fought,
Tumbled, and cursed for seven long months.

Thomas Reynolds is an associate English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Reviewand Prairie Poetry. His poetry chapbook Electricity was published by Ligature Press of Topeka, Kansas, and Woodley Memorial Press of Washburn University published his poetry collection Ghost Town Almanac in 2008.