Rutherford Elementary

When Mark Nicholson spilled his milk on me—a slosh
across my lap—the teacher let me tip the rest
on him, then slipped me in some spare jeans in her closet,
and that was that. From then on, teacher’s pet.

Carroll Toddy fell out the back of a swing that fall,
knocked him out, left a knot on his round head
like a horn. On cold days, our teams devolved
to backwards tag, the boy with the ball running the field,

and all the rest after him—smear the queer—trying
to tag or tackle him. No way to win. Tagged, he’d toss
the ball, lob it in the mob of us, or hurl it high—
snag it and you’re it—scramble past, run cross

the yard. No out of bounds, no teams, no rules,
until the bell called us back inside for school.

From Nest (Salmon Poetry, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Ed Madden. Used with the permission of the poet.