Soccer Until Dusk

The culture of soccer, explained in a poem.

By Mark Brazaitis - Peace Corps Volunteer, Guatemala (1991-1993)

My father laughs when I tell him
how in Santa Cruz Verapaz
men quit work at noon, and after lunch
play soccer until dusk.

My father is a reporter,
follows senators around,
sits in the White House press room;
the president calls him by name.

In 30 years, he has written thousands of stories,
small testaments to the lives of other men.
Before he divorced my mother,
before computers,
he would go afternoons into the den,
sit at his desk,
and type deep into the night.
I would fall asleep to the rhythmic thwack of keys,
my bedtime song.
From time to time he complained about working too hard,
spoke of wanting an alternative to 12-hour days.
In the months after the divorce, when our lives
seemed to have been sliced open like fruits,
spilling our secret juices,
he saw Gandhi and thought of giving everything,
house and car and savings, to my mother.

When I tell my father about the men playing soccer,
he follows his laugh with a stern look,
as if to ask whether I think kicking off work after half a day
and chasing a ball around a field
is any way a man should spend his life.
I don't argue; I never have.
Instead, I remember how I followed Pablo
and his father one afternoon to the stadium,
sat in the concrete stands as the men huddled,
picked sides.
I could have played; I'd been invited.
But soccer had never been my game,
so I watched as the men ran up and down the field,
their shirts off, their backs lit up by the sun,
and listened to their curses and shouts
as I would to a piece of exotic music,
strange sounds from another world.

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