A Boy Juggling a Soccer Ball

Christopher Merrill

 
   after practice: right foot
to left foot, stepping forward and back,
   to right foot and left foot,
and left foot up to his thigh, holding
   it on his thigh as he twists
around in a circle, until it rolls
   down the inside of his leg,
like a tickle of sweat, not catching
   and tapping on the soft
side of his foot, and juggling
   once, twice, three times,
hopping on one foot like a jump-roper
   in the gym, now trapping
and holding the ball in midair,
   balancing it on the instep
of his weak left foot, stepping forward
   and forward and back, then
lifting it overhead until it hangs there;
   and squaring off his body,
he keeps the ball aloft with a nudge
   of his neck, heading it
from side to side, softer and softer,
   like a dying refrain,
until the ball, slowing, balances
   itself on his hairline,
the hot sun and sweat filling his eyes
   as he jiggles this way
and that, then flicking it up gently,
   hunching his shoulders
and tilting his head back, he traps it
   in the hollow of his neck,
and bending at the waist, sees his shadow,
   his dangling T-shirt, the bent
blades of brown grass in summer heat;
   and relaxing, the ball slipping
down his back. . .and missing his foot.
   He wheels around, he marches
over the ball, as if it were a rock
   he stumbled into, and pressing
his left foot against it, he pushes it
   against the inside of his right
until it pops into the air, is heeled
   over his head--the rainbow!--
and settles on his extended thigh before
   rolling over his knee and down
his shin, so he can juggle it again
   from his left foot to his right foot
--and right foot to left foot to thigh--
   as he wanders, on the last day
of summer, around the empty field.
 
From Motion: American Sports Poems, edited by Noah Blaustein. Copyright © 2001 by Christopher Merrill. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Further Reading

Poems About Childhood
"Out, Out—"
by Robert Frost
Don't Let Me Be Lonely [There was a time]
by Claudia Rankine
A child said, What is the grass?
by Walt Whitman
Another Country
by Ryan Teitman
anyone lived in a pretty how town
by E. E. Cummings
Babylon
by Robert Graves
Because I cannot remember my first kiss
by Roger Bonair-Agard
Birches
by Robert Frost
Block City
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Blur
by Andrew Hudgins
Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
deer & salt block
by Joshua Marie Wilkinson
Early Memory
by January Gill O'Neil
Fern Hill
by Dylan Thomas
Fifteen, Maybe Sixteen Things to Worry About
by Judith Viorst
For Some Slight I Can't Quite Recall
by Ross Gay
From the Lives of My Friends
by Michael Dickman
Giraffes
by Kimiko Hahn
Going Down Hill on a Bicycle
by Henry Charles Beeching
In the Waiting Room
by Elizabeth Bishop
Jabberwocky
by Lewis Carroll
Lullaby in Blue
by Betsy Sholl
My Aunts
by Meghan O'Rourke
My Bright Aluminum Tumblers
by Michael Ryan
My Childhood
by Matthew Zapruder
Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
by William Wordsworth
Pirate Story
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Playgrounds
by Laurence Alma-Tadema
Pledge
by Elizabeth Powell
Poem for You
by David Shapiro
Recuerdo
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Solar system bedsheets
by Sarah Vap
The Children's Hour
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Gaffe
by C. K. Williams
The Lamb
by William Blake
The Portrait
by Stanley Kunitz
The Retreat
by Henry Vaughan
The Swing
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Tower
by W. B. Yeats
They Call This
by C. K. Williams
To My Best Friend's Big Sister
by Ross Gay
Untitled [The child thought it strange]
by Richard Meier
Untitled [You mustn't swim till you're six weeks old]
by Rudyard Kipling
We Are Seven
by William Wordsworth
Poems About Sports
After Skate
by Carol Muske-Dukes
Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio
by James Wright
Baseball and Writing
by Marianne Moore
Casey at the Bat
by Ernest Lawrence Thayer
Days of Me
by Stuart Dischell
Fishing on the Susquehanna in July
by Billy Collins
Night Baseball
by Michael Blumenthal
Séance at Tennis
by Dana Goodyear
Tackle Football
by Dan Chiasson
The Bee
by James Dickey
The First Olympic Ode [excerpt]
by Pindar
The Trouble Ball [excerpt]
by Martín Espada
To An Athlete Dying Young
by A. E. Housman
Train-Mates
by Witter Bynner