local_library Camp Ta Ta Pochen

by Robert McDowell

Published in Issue No. 18 ~ November, 1998

On the bus Tubbs chews his nails
All the way to Kentucky Lake,
Knowing he’ll have to take it: nettles
In his blanket, dogshit under his pillow,
His socks and underpants in high branches,
And pin money, hidden by mother in a shoe,
Winding up in a bully’s pocket.
Perpetual straightman of campfire skits,
He knows he’ll be last trotting down
To the lake to dive for forks and spoons.
On court his overweight team will be skins.
He’ll endure the counselor’s theory
On taking icy showers, hear how first
You must get your head wet, then your balls,
How someday they’ll get girls
Into cold showers with them,
And they won’t want to act like sissies then.
Reluctantly, Tubbs will enter the freezing drizzle,
His balls shriveling to the size of blueberries.
Even as he slips, gagging like a puppy,
He’ll hear a mean voice inside him saying concentrate.
The voice says you’ll be doing this all your life.

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Robert McDowell is the author of two books of poetry, Quiet Money (Holt 1987) and The Diviners (Peterloo Poets, 1995). His poems, essays, and fiction are published widely here and abroad, and his revised edition of the classic text, Sound and Form in Modern Poetry, was published by the University of Michigan Press in 1996. McDowell is also the editor of Poetry After Modernism and co-author with Mark Jarman of The Reaper Essays. He is the editor and pulisher at Story Line Press.