On Monday and Thursday nights and weekend afternoons during football season, there is always a game on in my house. While I am not a fan, many men in my life (father, husband, sons) have been, and so I appreciate that it is a sport that means a lot to so many. I am delighted to know that there are poets who have written about football. Among them is the celebrated African American poet and writer Jacqueline Woodson (b.1963), whose poem “football dreams” is below. While at first blush the story of a talented player, this poem also speaks of the particular opportunities the game has given to African-American athletes.

“Wide Receiver”, by Mark Halliday (b.1949), takes us into the mind of a receiver waiting for the quarterback’s throw. It gives us interesting insight on what happens on the field. From another vantage point, it describe a young lover’s hope to salvage a relationship. Ah, the beauty of poetry to engage us on so many levels! Share with your children and enjoy.

football dreams

No one was faster
than my father on the football field.
No one could keep him
from crossing the line. Then
touching down again.
Coaches were watching the way he moved,
his easy stride, his long arms reaching
up, snatching the ball from its soft pockets
of air.

My father dreamed football dreams,
and woke up to a scholarship
at Ohio State University.
Grown now
living the big-city life
in Columbus
just sixty miles
from Nelsonville
and from there
Interstate 70 could get you
on your way west to Chicago
Interstate 77 could take you south
but my father said
no colored Buckeye in his right mind
would ever want to go there.

From Columbus, my father said,
you could go just about

Jacqueline Woodson

Wide Receiver

In the huddle you said “Go long—get open”
and at the snap I took off along the right sideline
and then cut across left in a long arc
and I’m sure I was open at several points—
glancing back I saw you pump-fake more than once
but you must not have been satisfied with what you saw downfield
and then I got bumped off course and my hands touched the turf
but I regained my balance and dashed back to the right
I think or maybe first left and then right
and I definitely got open but the throw never came—

maybe you thought I couldn’t hang on to a ball flung so far
or maybe you actually can’t throw so far
but in any case I feel quite open now,
the defenders don’t seem too interested in me
I sense only open air all around me
though the air is getting darker and it would appear
by now we’re well into the fourth quarter
and I strongly doubt we can afford to settle for
dinky little first downs if the score is what I think it is

so come on, star boy, fling a Hail Mary
with a dream-coached combination of muscle and faith
and I will gauge the arc and I will not be stupidly frantic
and I will time my jump and—I’m just going to say
in the cool gloaming of this weirdly long game
it is not impossible that I will make the catch.

Mark Halliday