Never Have I Ever
Most nights, we didn’t know what we were drinking
for: shame or celebration. Were we
proud of pissing our pants
in the last five years, jerking off
to foreign language
teachers? Was it hubris or humility that made us
raise our beers? Or was it the blue
eyes across from us? The eyes grew
and glowed and narrowed
when we kissed the rim
of our cups. The eyes kept us company between
cigarette breaks. We’re not listening
to the questions anymore.
Something about prom.
Something about razors.
The blue eyes look drunk
and need a ride home. The blue eyes make us
stay the night, but the blue eyes just fall
asleep on the couch. We’re terrible
liars, and we whisper this to the blue eyes
the minute after they close.
Every year, an old man takes me
for an undersized DB or a running back
while we trade shots and histories. What
year did you play? You should have
played for us, We could have
used you tonight. So much melts
from their mouths
when I admit I haven’t worn a uniform
since third grade and they see me
for what I am: a black man who learned
to shoot white liquor in a college town. Lust leaves
their voices. Hands leave my shoulders.
I spend the night paying
for my own drinks.
isn’t on Jim Crow hands or police dog teeth.
Blood from knees and elbows scraped white, from noses busted
by knees and elbows and no look passes
when no one was looking. I’m guilty and proud. I was the playground
Anthony Mason. My game wasn’t pretty
enough to be Jordan or Olajuwon. I wasn’t pretty.
All shoulders and menace, blocking
bodies or blocking shots made no difference.
I never hit a game winner, but I did grab
twelve rebounds in a pickup game.
I counted my rebounds in pickup games. I still do
not believe the stories waiting for me at home; friends swear
I gave birth to the scars they show off at the bar
during holiday meet-ups. I’ve never been in a fight
over money or a girl; I probably won’t beat my kids unless
there’s a Dairy Queen close by. But I butchered boys
to keep them from putting a ball through a net.
And other boys did nothing
but give me high fives.
JASON MCCALL is the author of Silver (Main Street Rag), I Can Explain (Finishing Line Press), and Dear Hero, (Marsh Hawk Press, winner of the 2012 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize). He holds an MFA from the University of Miami, and he currently teaches English at the University of Alabama.