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A brisk October night:
the high school football team,
the band, the fire department
flanking the assortment
of folks that part a seam
around the bonfire’s light,

and the cheerleaders. We
are faces in that crowd,
half-lit by those huge flames
and half by what’s-his-name’s
Jim Beam. The band plays loudly,

like something on the blink.
In the dry air, spots of breath.
The tubas gleam and boom.
The team wobbles: no room
on their risers. “A human wreath
around the fire,” I think

in my vainglorious way,
but I know better than
to say it to anyone.
Their heavy hoses drawn
for the worst, the firemen
keep watch on us, but they,

though they are not completely
unconcerned with the threat
of fire, know that they
are part of the display.
Their helmets appear wet
with light. We eye them discreetly.

The bullhorn blares a bid
on winning (though the chance
is slim). And then we hear,
“Ready? Okay.” The cheer-
leaders get up and dance.
They make a pyramid

of their young bodies, an old
routine. Bare legs, no slack,
they brace in the shadowy light,
trembling, their smiles—tight
as their glossy hair pulled back—
disavowing the cold.