Ron Smith

Football & the English Language
May 25, 2022 Smith Ron

Football & the English Language


My first year as high school coach, five points
behind Norfolk Academy, eighty long yards
from the endzone, & Scott Berle, our defensive
backs guy & campus advocate for Vonnegut &
Brautigan, runs up: “OK, now I grok where I work.”
A few days before, he’d launched a lightweight
poetry snob from his classroom clear across
the hallway & through my usually closed door.
The boy bounced hard on the tiles. So, I turn
my willpower beam from the field to the revelation
promised by that always winning smirk. “One
of our players just yelled to our quarterback:
‘Keep abreast of the time!’ ” A week of hard laughs
& some Jack Black helped us swallow the loss.
Seasons on, another nailbiter, my quickest linebacker
& keenest Whitman hater at my elbow howling: “Get
HEEneeyus!” “Jack,” I say without taking my eyes
from the field, “that’s pronounced HAYnus.” “I know,
Coach,” he whispered, “but HEEneeyus sounds meaner.”

Ron Smith’s book That Beauty in the Trees was published in 2023 by Louisiana State University Press. His The Humility of the Brutes, Its Ghostly Workshop, and Moon Road were also published by LSU. Smith’s poems have appeared in many periodicals, including The Nation, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Five Points, and Arts of War & Peace (Université Paris Diderot). He is currently Consultant in Poetry and Prose at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Virginia, and Poetry Editor for Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature. In recent years he has partnered with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to present poems associated with Man Ray’s Paris years and its “The Horse in Ancient Greek Art” exhibit. From 2014 to 2016 Smith was the Poet Laureate of Virginia.