Eupora High School Gym, 2002 (POMPA, 2017)

Off the bus, we find the usual heavy air of 

stale popcorn,

the faint notes of mildew from Jordans 

left in gym bags,

each doorknob, threshold, bench 

streaked with rust.

In our locker room, teammates—lank-legged 

black and white boys—

tape ankles, slip on jerseys that should 

label us the enemy.

But the bigger battle, a cold

culture war,

heats the stands naively marked 

“Visitor” and “Home.”

On one side, black fans back their all 

black team,

punctuate dunks, and echo

every swish.

Across the floor, white parents ignore 

court action,

flip through magazines, braid 

hair until

their all white dance squad takes

 the halftime stage.

At intermission’s end, waves of camo 

and blond hair

pour through exits as our dribbles and 

sneaker squeaks

reverberate through a 

half-drained gym.

We visitors can’t explain the tableau 

we’re performing

between the baselines, but it feels 

like Mississippi.

When the buzzer sounds, teams shake hands

and we bus back home. 

Eupora tidies up, shuts off the lights, and readies 

for another game tomorrow.