You step into manhood
in your yellow and black uniform,
whistle wrapped round your wrist.
“Blow the whistle a little louder ref!”
shouts the coach of the Lightning Strikes,
a band of 8-year-olds in neon green,
already imagining themselves, one day, on the big screen,
the crowds, arms raised, deafening with their cheers,
waves of sound banging through the skies,
shouting as their parents and coaches do now.
Five years ago, you were one of those boys.
Today, authority rode nervous on your shoulders on the way to the field,
chattering, fretting, words stuttering out.
Fidgeting with your uniform, checking for the quarter in your pocket,
“I didn’t practice blowing my whistle,” you worried.
And me, the mom, how little I know:
“It’s a whistle. How hard can it be?”
The youngest of two,
authority is not often yours.
so damn sure of everything she thinks she knows.
Her criticism descends, and you retreat.
But you know the game —
playing on the field,
watching on TV —
as the black and white ball knows your feet.
Smallest on your own team,
you steal past the tall, staggering boys,
unafraid of what you know.
Your first game now as ref,
it’s you and the boys (and their dads and their coaches).
They all know the game, or
think they do.
The coach of the Strikes,
burly and red-faced,
he would be the ref too,
if not for your yellow shirt.
You know this game.
Now it’s time
into your Authority.
Your name now: “Hey, ref!”