Back to Issue Thirty-Five

Glasnost Bowl


One summer I walked to a field to watch boys
    run practice drills. I was 13. We girls drank beer

in the bleachers and followed those small bodies
    in big shoulder pads scatter back and forth

across a stretch of land like the larval graphics our eyes
    clung to in the earliest 80s arcade games.

First rule of America is you can’t imagine everywhere
    doesn’t want to be here. Papers boasted Soviets

were curious how many people die during our game
    which is a trick question. My grandmother taught me

football is for the goyim, which meant probably
    it’s American, and I didn’t tell her about the boys,

their drills and the beer. Meanwhile, Soviet infrastructure
    didn’t allow for exhibition because infrastructure

didn’t exist there. The game moved to LA.
    Holy all that is capitalism, we craved publicity.

The world seemed to start and end in California.
    At least on TV. The star of the Bowl later put a bullet 

in his own chest. Brain trauma. He beat his wife.
    I was 20 when another football player killed his wife

and I watched it unfold on TV north of the city where
    I failed to flee a man of my own. He was also an athlete.

I’ve never tried to bury anything so much
    in my life as my own unsafety and the spectacle

of a famous wife’s death. Los Angeles was good to me.
    Scandal was for the goyim. Publicity is for America.

My own bruised torso didn’t exist. First rule of America is
    strong men pretend to look out for you. 

Los Angeles lost, but won the rematch. The sun licked
    our skin on days so mild I still dissociate with familiarity 

then tire trying to get myself back. What would I tell 
    the girl in the bleachers, buzzed on America? I’ve already

closed the tab on the Soviets, on the 80s, on beer.
    First rule of Los Angeles is you need an audience.

First rule of America is you have to face it head on
    like a man while men charge at you, while men send you

to the hospital between apologies and excuses and the
    ER nurse who impatiently whispers Next time he’ll kill you.


Lynn Melnick is the author of the poetry collections Refusenik (forthcoming in 2022), Landscape with Sex and Violence (2017), and If I Should Say I Have Hope (2012), all with YesYes Books, and the co-editor of Please Excuse This Poem: 100 Poets for the Next Generation (Viking, 2015). I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive, a book about Dolly Parton that is also a bit of a memoir, is forthcoming from University of Texas Press in 2022.

Next (Valerie Hsiung) >

< Previous (Traci Brimhall)