After the doctor checked to see
we weren’t ruptured,
the man with the short cigar took us
under the grade school,
where we went in case of attack
or storm, and said
he was Clifford Hill, he was
a man who believed dogs
ate dogs, he had once killed
for his country, and if
there were any girls present
for them to leave now.
                                      No one
left. OK, he said, he said I take
that to mean you are hungry
men who hate to lose as much
as I do. OK. Then
he made two lines of us
facing each other,
and across the way, he said,
is the man you hate most
in the world,
and if we are to win
that title I want to see how.
But I don’t want to see
any marks, when you’re dressed,
he said. He said, Now.

“First Practice” is from BLUE LIKE THE HEAVENS: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, by Gary Gildner, © 1984. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA  15261. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.