My poems podcast, Words by Winter, can be found here.
As a lone wolf when it comes to work and a non-team sports person, I don’t really know what being part of a team that wants to beat another team feels like. I think of myself as my own competitor: write better, do better, be better. When my kids played sports I used to sit on the bleachers and absentmindedly cheer if I saw a good goal, which doesn’t go over well if the other team made it.
Talking about competition is complicated, because if I claim I’m not competitive, others will often laugh and say “yes, you are.” So maybe I don’t really understand it. Maybe I don’t want to. Why do we agree to live in a system that emphasizes winning over others instead of mutual aid? Does the world have to be this way or do we make it this way? Isn’t everyone good at something others aren’t?
A couple of years ago on a family vacation I watched my children play a game called Pandemic, where all the players work together to beat a virus before it wipes them out. When I read this poem I thought of that game and its beautiful, imaginary, unfamiliar world.
Turning, by Joseph Mills
My friend’s kid runs the sideline, gets a pass,
turns, and scores with a kick to the near post.
It’s how the play should go, but at this age
rarely does. My son sprints to him, arms up.
They high five and celebrate a moment,
then turn to jog back to their positions.
Last year, they would have hopped around madly,
twirled, fallen backwards, and rolled in the grass.
This season, they are serious. No more
skipping. No more acting sweetly goofy.
Now, they turn towards one another rather
than towards us. No more checking that we’ve seen.
But we have. We know the score, and what’s lost
as they try to turn themselves into men.