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Dareg loved the summer gathers,Author's Notes
because the wide river valleys held flat ground
where the grass was soon trampled flat
by the passage of many feet,
and room was always found to stake out
a field for playing bola-ball.
When travelers poured in from all three villages,
the inevitable jostling took place
as people vied for position on the teams.
Oh, there were the children's games and the side games,
but the best players --
they wanted to play against each other.
Dareg was a favorite.
He had the height and the shoulders,
the strength and speed and agility
to make an excellent player.
The summer he passed his adulthood tests,
he was picked for one of the main teams --
picked last, but picked all the same.
He stripped to the waist for his first game,
skin just starting to tan in the summer sun,
and if the grip on his newly carved stick
was slippery with sweat under his palms,
well, nobody could see that.
The Elder flung the bola-ball into the air
and each team's Hunters surged forward,
trying to catch it with the curved end of their sticks.
It flew over Dareg's head, too high to reach,
but a teammate of his snagged it
and flicked it toward him.
Dareg caught it deftly,
the three thongs wrapping his stick
and the balls holding it in place.
He dashed toward the other team's goal,
and when the opposing Hunters closed on him,
unwound the bola-ball and passed it
sidelong to someone else.
The other team took off
after the new holder,
and Dareg skirted the scrum
to position himself near the goal.
Sure enough, the bola-ball
came winging his way again.
He scooped out of the air
and flung it through the small hoop
atop the slender goalpost.
The Elder held up three fingers
to indicate the points scored,
and the crowd cheered.
Then she picked up the bola-ball
and returned it to play.
Dareg galloped after it,
chest heaving with exertion and excitement.
The day was mild, but already
sweat ran from his skin in glistening rivers.
The young women --
and not a few older ones as well --
who lined the playing field
smiled as they toyed with their necklaces,
some of them thumbing the gaps at him.
The Other from the opposing team
tagged Dareg at the edge of a scuffle.
The Elder waved him off the field.
Dareg flopped onto a side bench.
Vrelir, who had made the custom bola stick for him,
brought him a skin of water and a towel.
"What do you think?"
the carver asked him.
"I think," said Dareg,
"that I'm going to need more beads."
This poem came out of the December 4, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from Ellen Million and sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette