Poem of the Week | January 06, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Football Game” by Samuel Cheney!

Samuel Cheney is from Centerville, Utah. He is the recipient of scholarships from Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers’ conferences, and his poem “On the Footage of Monet Painting” was awarded the 2019 Erskine J. Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in Copper Nickel, Narrative, Nashville Review, Smartish Pace, Western Humanities Review, Whiskey Island, and Forklift, Ohio in the last year, and is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Salmagundi, and North American Review. He is a Lecturer in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, and lives in Baltimore.


Football Game

I’m watching ghosts from the wet bleachers,
night sky glowing in that way darkness can glow especially
when it’s cold and that’s why I’m here,
because tonight a chill is blooming like in the fall
back home, football mattered, fall mattered, stars at night mattered,
the stands seated people and the cold
killed the leaves and forced everybody closer and made everything
reverent and unified, not the kind of reverence I find
wearing my grandpa’s coat alone on clanky empty bleachers
in the middle of the night in the middle of the Inland Empire
where it never feels autumnal like this
even though the sky is always burning
bruised-peach orange to the east and bruised-cheek violet to the west
and right now it’s all midnight blue
call it that for a reason, like this camel-colored sports jacket
which belonged to the Salinas High cornerback, class of 1940,
scrappy in leather helmet and sweater chugging across the 45-yard line
before he ships off to fly shark-nosed cargo planes and win jitterbug competitions
and marry two women and have one hell of a time before ending up
in the Garden of Memories Memorial Park
but who is, at the moment, only trying to chase down
our Viewmont High record-breaking runningback, class of 2008,
huge and enduring, gap-toothed and kind, and twice as goddam fast,
who never got to marry anybody or even finish his high-school career but instead,
one afternoon,
cramped up swimming
and sank below the surface of Bear Lake.


Author’s Note

“Football Game” is the one I’ve carried with me the longest. I’ve tried to make the poem move like the mind as the mind is moved by the heart. It is dedicated to the sacred memories of my step-grandpa Robert Alameda (1922-2010) and my friend Seth Fraughton (1989-2007).