The Pool Coach Sings Hallelujah
Only during the solo drives
does he marvel at the things done correctly.
At 5 each morning, sparked by caffeine
and perched in uniform behind the wheel,
he cues the gospel station
and cruises through the sleeping city,
Aretha and the Nightingales
overpowering his reedy tenor
as the shapes of buildings rise
under the sprawl of constellations.
Here, nothing shows but the majesties:
the steeple that juts
to meet the purple-black dawn,
the refinery towers
that the plaque on the library
says built this county out of dirt and grime.
With sunrise come the imperfections.
The sophomore is pregnant again,
the candles from the last drive-by
melted by the porch a mile from campus.
In his dreams, some nights,
he watches the coach’s outlines
saunter without him around the pool--
the staccato hand against the clipboard
turning temper into music,
the legs ambling, then snapping to strides
to keep the boys at attention.
He is the placeholder this fall,
shorter than the one from spring;
his voice is too high, his shoulders low.
But at freshman practice,
he spots the hungry looks,
the trust in him the quiet ones
beam sideways across the deck.
Between the swears and towel snaps,
they seek his assurance, his veteran’s guile.
They plead to know how to harness precision,
to tame the water and rise.
Published in The First Thing Mastered (Tebot Bach, 2013)