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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Practice Late autumn, the stadium’s open, empty. We walk out between hashmarks half-hidden in frost-seared grass, and run old patterns: the slant, the curl, the post, the flag. Lobbing the football back and forth we feel familiarity in the touch, the hard lacing and pebbled leather. Under an early moon he lumbers off. I loft the ball farther to him, and watch him juke and cut, old footwork, the push between the knees and balls of feet. The open north fence shows yellow farmland we thought we’d all break free from as easily as from a lineman’s grasp. Now in the slant light, my friend lines up, a man like me past thirty, something in the blood’s frost that sends him running had, pursuing nothing but plain fact pulled down from the sky. The ball whumps in his hands. He dances, high-fives the air. Twilight bends across his face as he turns to line up again. “Go deep,” I shout. “Go deep.” First Grade Aftertaste of chocolate milk; sleek sun dancing off windows; the small paper clocks we spent so many days on, fixing hands with tacks, turning and turning them to learn the names of the hours but none of the children’s names comes back. Not the boy with rumpled black hair in front of me. Not the girl with pale blue eyes who raised her hand on every question. Their faces I see clearly, and the opened door we longed each day to bolt through, and the red and yellow cut-out paper leaves about to blow away on the bulletin board. But no names return, even if I stare long into the line of faces. And what about the teacher who stayed only a year in our small town? Dark-haired, quiet, always sad; her husband off at war in another land. Calm and younger in my mind, her face reflects bronze light from the trees. She looks up from her desk, about to speak, to call on me with a question. And did I know the answer? And could I tell her now? A Piece of Watermelon I cut a circular slice of watermelon from the Charleston Grey our father picked from the garden. I placed my slab in a pan and ate it all, spitting out the seeds in the mizzling soup \(poured out by the door I took the hollowed hoop of melon down to the woods, the pond and fence line marking the north side of our neighbor’s property. I cut my initials, and the date I ate it into the melon’s crisp rind and left it looped around a crooked fence post. I went back this spring to the place and found nothingno rind, no curled up roiling remnant, no husk in the high grass, nothing of the greenpink piece I devoured one sweltering evening, though I stood thinking back, my initials carved there, while the summer sun carved its name into the flash of my body. ROGER JONES Ra oger Jones has published one collection of poems, Strata, and teaches in the English Department at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. His work is included in I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You, an anthology from Simon & Schuster. His poems evoke scenes of deep memory, rich with mys tery, whole worlds in their fine particulars. Naomi Shihab Nye 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER . DECEMBER 19, 1997