R.I.P. by Wayne F. Burke

Coach “Ripper” Gaines, bear-like and
with a beer gut and mashed-face
stands in the center of the circle,
the woods around the field
the mountain behind him
shaped like the Liberty Bell,
we sit on the soft grass
football helmets in our laps;
Coach Gaines’ gruff sepulchral voice
clear as a bell as he tells
the story of the “dirty player,”
a guy whom Coach had played against
in semi-Pro ball; a guy who kicked and
punched and even bit in the pile-ups’;
a guy “Ripper” vowed to get, and did
driving his helmet into the guy’s gut
once, twice, three times, like a pile-driver
until the guy collapsed and had to be
carried off the field then taken to the
hospital where…he died.
“Let this be a lesson to you boys:  play hard
but play clean! No dirty stuff!”
Cigarettes of coaches and fathers glow
like fire flies; stars shine; and somewhere
six feet under, lies the dirty player, killed by
Ripper, who during the day drives a truck
for the Highway Department.

Wayne F. Burke’s poetry has appeared in a variety of publications (including “In Between Hangovers”). His three published poetry collections, all from Bareback Press, are WORDS THAT BURN, DICKHEAD, and KNUCKLE SANDWICHES. His chapbook PADDY WAGON is published by Epic Rites Press. He lives in Vermont.

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