Note-Taking While Watching Monday Night Football

by Cal Freeman

Winner, 2018 Neutrino Short-Short Prize
selected by T Fleischmann

When he says, “Big, strong, elusive back,” Jon Gruden is talking about LeGarette Blount, but he could be talking about the brumous sky of your city or the geo-piety it takes to pulverize concrete into talc.

It would be good to get the troubled youth outside on a field, pitted against each other for yardage. It begets discipline, which begets scholastic success, which begets civic pride and good citizenship.

I was never quite so alive as when the ball crossed the plane and the supercilium of the helmet was smeared with grease of the uropygial gland.

I still think sometimes of Junior Seau and what Roland Barthes might have said about the post-mortem studies conducted on his brain. Junior Seau, hole in his chest where thick gold Superbowl rings once hung pendant from a chain.

Jon Gruden barks in a huddle of suburban Philadelphia high-schoolers. It invigorates him to be around young students of the game, he says.

Birds, unaware they’re mascots, secrete their oil slowly and sheen it over feathers, prodding the gland with a beak. This happens in every town, and the penalty for excessive preening is tacked on to the subsequent return.

Gruden knows the game has gotten a bad rap but insists it’s still great. I wonder who among these broadcasters will string the words of Mercury Morris through the tuning heads of a piano harp and call it posterity, though.

I was going to say suicide is a mechanistic aversion to the cerebellum’s ash-grey combs, that no material is ductile enough to be impervious to what is hauntingly called “punishment,” that only by exhumation can distance to the goal be measured in units other than yards.

Cal Freeman was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of Brother Of Leaving (Marick Press) and Fight Songs (Eyewear Publishing). His writing has appeared in many journals including New Orleans Review, The Journal, Commonweal, Drunken Boat, and The Poetry Review. He is a recipient of The Devine Poetry Fellowship (judged by Terrance Hayes); he has also been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes in both poetry and creative nonfiction. He regularly reviews collections of poetry for the radio program Stateside on Michigan Public Radio. He is the lead singer and chief songwriter of the Detroit-based Americana group The Codgers.