Thursday, December 10, 2009

Quarterbacks & Homecoming Queens


He’s holed up in the weight room
he lifts like a machine
she’s holed up in the bathroom
she polishes her preen

It’s Anywhere, America
forever seventeen
and everybody’s heroes
are quarterbacks, homecoming queens

They know how laugh politely
golden chain around their throat
always know some little secrets
that the rest of us just don’t

Playing catch with freckled kids
braiding heads of little girls
bored with everything we want
dreams of water tower worlds

Any given Friday night
any field of dim Holsteins
pickups flying through the black
with quarterbacks, homecoming queens

Trying hard to be so good
intentions pave the way
holding doors and thinking
daddy’s barn is full of hay

Some kids play in marching bands
some just can’t find their place
some wear someone else’s clothes
a tense uneven face

Might get smiles from their folks
and letters from the deans
But they never go to parties
with quarterbacks, homecoming queens

The smart kids all go off to school
the simple tend the store
and the ones that fall between them
either go for less or more

While some are frozen where they stand
in jerseys, skirts and jeans
with the quick and easy smiles
of quarterbacks, homecoming queens

Always and never are two words
a person ought not say
but time’s got this way of winking
makes you look the other way

He still holds a record somewhere
petals pressed into a book
they might tell you all about them
but can’t get themselves to look

Each play from twenty years ago,
each pump fake and cutback,
every time she called out
from a stool on the track,

Every dance he asked her to,
the movies that they missed,
each touchdown and tiara,
and each stolen summer tryst

Live behind the eyes somehow
they’re never far away
and probably were nice back then
but mean much more today

And when I pray I thank the Lord
my blessings did not ring
with speed or strength or with a face
that ever launched a thing

And then I say a quiet word
across the flood-lit greens
for heavy heads in paper crowns -
for quarterbacks, homecoming queens.

12 comments:

BloggerMouth said...

I can't believe my luck, I am posting the first comment! This is my favourite of your poems in recent times... These are the best lines in this poem, IMO:

"The smart kids all go off to school
the simple tend the store
and the ones that fall between them
either go for less or more"

And the end was too good... heavy heads in paper crowns. Only you could come up with that. Thank you for this :)

Julie said...

I love it. It makes me think of all those pathetic people who, in their thirties and beyond, pine and moan for the paper crowns of high school. By the way, that's an awesome line..."for heavy heads in paper crowns." I've heard people say that high school was the best years of their lives. What the hell? If that's true, then they have pretty sad lives.

It also makes me think of Updike's "Rabbit, Run." The character was the star football player and couldn't move beyond those days, to put it simply. My favorite stanza is the second to the last. As always, I enjoyed it very much!

Nevine said...

Joaquin, you have captured the soul of America, quite simply. It's amazing but I'm always fascinated by how everyone reacts to those high school football "heroes" - such a big deal. And then real life happens. Here's my favorite part:

Always and never are two words
a person ought not say
but time’s got this way of winking
makes you look the other way

How we are sabotaged - and how we sabotage ourselves!

There's a heavy sense of loss, or rather, the heaviness that comes with the desire to hang on to things that do not want to be captured and held, even if they are just memories. The rhythm is heartbreaking and nostalgic. All the right words, and then some... Just like every time, Joaquin. I'm amazed by your talent, and always left with my jaw in my lap.

Nevine

Karen said...

As someone who spent many years of her life teaching those quarterbacks and homecoming queens and simple ones and those in-between, I know the truth of this poem.

High school is such a difficult time for so many young people who are not the "heavy heads in paper crowns". I always wanted to tell those who fell "somewhere in between" that they would someday shine in their own right and that the stars of high school often burned brightest right then and then burn out.

"And when I pray I thank the Lord
my blessings did not ring
with speed or strength or with a face
that ever launched a thing

And then I say a quiet word
across the flood-lit greens
for heavy heads in paper crowns -
for quarterbacks, homecoming queens."

I love all of this, but these last two stanzas really say it for me. I've been there, and I see you have, too.

Karen said...

Oh, yes, I meant to tell you that your book arrived yesterday, and I spent the evening with some old friends and new. I love it!

Aniket said...

This has such great depth! Karen (as usual) said it all. We all try so hard to find our own in high-school, its scary. I am now friends with few I hated back then and lost touch with few without whom I could never dream a life without. Life is strange.

I too hung around the homecoming queens for a while before realizing the in-betweens were a lot more fun and unpredictable.

This was filling. Such a treat.

Jannie Funster said...

This reminds me of how lonely and full of loss high school can be.

I liked the line "Daddy's barn is full of hay." I'm not sure exactly how to interpret but that makes me like it even more.

Touchdowns and tiaras was wonderful, sums up the whole idea of their golden- ness.

Thanks, Joaquin.

trooping with crows said...

Joaquin! I hate to repeat what everyone else is writing, but this poem IS SO dead on! I remember football players being excused from assignments, even tests!
LOVE the very first stanza...sets the reader up perfectly. I also loved the line about "Daddy's barn" I can't possibly write dowmn all my favorite lines, but I'll tell you, I was also keen on
"He still holds a record somewhere
petals pressed into a book
they might tell you all about them
but can't get themselves to look"
It's like, yeah, where are these prodigal sons (and daughters) now??
All they had was high school and now.....

You have such a wide range. Your poems are all so different yet, they are definately a "collection"
As always, amazing.

Sarah Hina said...

This poem struck me for a different reason. I wasn't homecoming queen, but I was something like the quarterback. Played three sports, all well (all modesty aside), and was athlete of the year for my senior year. My father told me I was living the best years of my life. "Best appreciate it."

I never bought that, and I sensed the bitterness behind his warning. I did all the sports stuff for him, not me. I hated most of it. And I wonder how many of those jocks and cheerleaders felt shoved into boxes, too. Prettier boxes than most, I'm sure. But I think that's the near universal experience of high school--trying to fit in, when you're not even fully you yet. Pinballing through this perplexing maze, and only slowing down to gain perspective and objectivity much, much later.

Sorry for the rambling. Yikes! The poem is outstanding--there is a heavy burden for people like my father, people who feel like the best in life happened before they even knew it. You captured that twist-in-the-gut regret perfectly. And the last stanza is a quiet stunner, Joaquin.

joaquin carvel said...

Blo-Mo - i was really on the fence trying to decide if i should post this or not - so your comment was a huge relief. i'm glad you're around. thank you.

julie - i don't understand it either - the high scool "best years" thing. even in the sense that you're pretty much taken care of - that your biggest worry is some essay you have to write or a zit on your chin - but even that isn't that great (or shouldn't be) when you've spread your wings a little - fallen down and found you can get back up. i don't know that updike book, but may have just found my next pick at the library. thank you!

nevine - they say high school is a microcasm of our culture - as a certian sports "hero"'s self-sabotage is currently unraveling - well, i think "real life happens" hits it on the head. thank you for always being able to inuit between the words.

karen - something tells me that you were the kind of teacher whose students knew you felt that way, even if you didn't come right out and say it. thank you. and glad you're enjoying the book!

aniket - life is strange - that's for sure. and i agree - the in-betweens are a lot more fun - probably because they are unpredictable. thank you.

jannie - it's a good time, but a tough time too. i guess it's life practice. anyway, "I'm not sure exactly how to interpret but that makes me like it even more." made me smile - sounds like me! thank you.

troop - yep, it's nice to be the "golden boy" (or girl) of the moment - it's knowing that it's just one moment, and that a lot more are coming, that can be tricky. thank you - and thank you for the collection comment - i feel like they're all over the place sometimes, so that means a lot.

sarah - see, now that's why i wasn't sure about posting this - i doubt anyone in high school really has it easier than anybody else, it can just look like they do. which is probably what led to the last stanza - when you see how too much too soon can be just as destructive as too little too late. thank you for shining that light. (3 sports?! let's see - uh - softball....soccer...and...field hockey?)

Sarah Hina said...

Cross country, basketball, and track. Only basketball was a little bit o' fun. Running around a track is now how I envision purgatory. ;)

And you definitely should have posted this. There are plenty of people for which those were the "glory days." I'm just grateful I had a delayed awakening.

Sarah Hina said...

for whom. Crikey.