The team did not like Cassella’s methods but

Jesus, he could run. Made it look like floating.

He was born to it: his calves like loaves, thighs

thick sides of beef. First, we’d run the lake loop,

then attack the steep hills. He’d take us on the rise,

our captain patting our shoulders, our butts.

After the runs, legs stammering, arms scratched,

we’d find him waiting in his father’s van.

The fastest could sit up front, choose the tape.


When his name made the news mom kissed her cross

said, Jesus. He was always such a good boy.


He kept his stash in the glove box, let us boys

draw and glow in back, legs burnt from the run.

We’d drive to his house, listen to The Dead.

Cassella said this was our time to commune,

pray, talk sport, speak our blessings, repent

before the “cool down” in his dad’s basement.

We are a team, he’d say then have us close our eyes,

let him gently clean our spirits, maybe our souls.

In the way that his father taught him, they said.


On Sunday Mom doubled her donation,

dyed her hair red in the sink.  Jesus,

the pastor said, offered St. Sebastian’s prayer.


First published in Tomorrow, We Will Live Here, 2010.