Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Competition is Ever-present in American Schools

They line us up against the padded back wall of the gym
the coaches’ sneakers squeaking on the floor
as they roll the red rubber balls out in front of us
ping ping ping
they bounce and we scramble to get them
so that when the whistle blows
we’ll throw them as hard as possible
at the heads of the children on the other side of the line.

We’ll pick off the weak that hover in the back,
pegging them hard in the spine
when they turn to avoid our dominance.
We’ll slap five.
We’ll hoot and shout.
We’ll keep throwing that ball until we have decimated their team,
cut down their numbers, ostracized them through pain.
Whistles will blow again
and we’ll line up for the water fountain
where it doesn’t stop,
this dominance
where the same ones who hovered in the back
now try to drink water
and the same ones who threw the balls
splash it in their face.

It helps us grow. That’s what we say. Life is hard.
This game is truth.
It’s played all over the world.
Here we call it dodge ball
In England they call it Bombardment.
In Australia, Poison Ball.
In Turkey, Yakan Top which means the ball that hurts,
an apt description.
In Romania, they call it Ducks and Hunters
All across the world, burn ball, hit ball, two camps,
this game keeps appearing.
But I think the German’s got it right.
Because when they line their children up against the wall
and teach them how to win
and how to run
they call it

--Ally Malinenko

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