“Soccer Dad” by Steve Henn

Steve Henn


So I have to sit through my son’s soccer practice
for 45 minutes before the nine-year-olds gladiate
and step on each other’s feet and take balls in the face
in the third game of the season and I think I’ll bring
a poetry book to read no big deal nobody’s gonna notice
well I’ve been reading along in this poetry book and it’s a good
poetry book and I turn to a poem that includes a snake
and the snake is oiled/ slick like a male member slick
with the juices of the female or something to that effect
and I’ve got this book open, on my lap, thinking, Christ,
these good soccer moms and dads are gonna think I’m
some odd sort of pervert reading about a slick member
while sitting at a soccer game for nine-year-old boys
so I put the book down but I’m bored the practice is boring
the games are better it’s a competition between your children
and other people’s children which is the best way
to get the American parent interested in their children
that I know of so I decide to pick up the book again
and open to the next page and the title of the poem
is “Foreskin” good gravy how am I supposed to bring
a poetry book to soccer practice to enjoy in my own
private island of headspace not having to talk
to the other parents if emblazoned there at the top of the page
I’m reading that anybody can peek over and ask about is
“Foreskin” and I mean no disrespect to the poet
this poet was recommended as one of the greats
writing in American English today and she probably is
some of the poems earlier in the book really did
take the top of my head off in the way the ol’ cat lady
said poetry ought to so the game starts my son’s team
goes up 3-0 in the first quarter lickety split
then the other side gets a goal back in quarter two
then my son volunteers to play goalie which terrifies me
and he performs three hair raising saves two in the corner
by the post just before the ball crosses the goal line
and another by charging out into the thick of legs
around the penalty spot claiming the ball by diving on it
when the ball’s on the other side of the field I call to him
“Oren!” and give him two thumbs up like I’m saying
which dad is proud of his son—this guy! definitely not
like I’m saying who wants the word “Foreskin” real big
in the book of poetry they’re reading among the churchgoing
normies of Normaltown Indiana and Oren thumbs up back
and we’re feeling pretty good till they get one lucky one
and then another because nobody on our team will get in the way
of the big boy on the other side and he crushes one from fairly close
range Oren didn’t have a chance so after that second goal 
he walks over to the sideline rips his goalie penny off
throws it on the ground kicks something and yells
and all the parents are awwwwing and oooohing and ahhhhing
look at that a nine-year-old throwing a fit cause he got scored
on twice and I was sad and all but not disappointed really
not upset who’s going to begrudge a nine-year-old a fit
when a kid built like a truck has just crushed two balls past him
in quick succession and I kinda wanna take the pressure off my kid
and make him not the center of revulsion or pity or empathy
or whatever human emotions are being psychotransmorgrificationally
beamed in his direction so I open the poetry book
lay it on my lap plain as day in the 70 degree sunshine
look around at all the parents and go “can anybody tell me
what this word means?”

from Rattle #62, Winter 2018
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Steve Henn: “This poem is the true (-ish) story of the lengths I will go to avoid awkward conversation with other soccer parents. When I read it aloud for poetry people I typically read the last line of dialogue as ‘can anybody tell me / what ‘foreskin’ means?’” (web)


Steve Henn is the guest on Rattlecast #68! Click here to watch …

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