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Cave Canem: A Special Section

—for Y.K. & brothers playing football in the parks, in the streets, in the dark

We made our own laws. I want to be a Hawk,A Dolphin, a Lion, we’d say

In stores where team logos hung Like animal skins.

Even by moonlight, We’d chase each other Around the big field

Beneath branches sagging As if their leaves were full of blood.

We didn’t notice when policemen Came lighting tree-bark & our skin with flashlights.

They saw our game For what it was:

Fingers clutching torso, Shoulder, wrist—a brawl. Some of the boys escaped,

Their brown legs cut by thorns As they ran through the brush.

It’s true, we could have been mistaken For animals in the dark, But of all possible crimes,

Blackness was the first. So they tackled me, [End Page 1014]

And read me my rights without saying: You Down or Dead Ball. We had a language

They did not use, a name For collision. We called it Touch.

Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes is author of Muscular Music. His poems have also appeared in a number of periodicals and anthologies, including Red Brick Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, and Pittsburgh Quarterly.

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