Stephen Dunn



Loyal obedience to the rules jointly defined and freely accepted.
         —Albert Camus, on why his true lessons in morality came from sports.


Lucky that we didn’t know the games we played
      were teaching us about boundaries
and integrity; it would have smacked of school,

we who longed for recess. And lucky—when exiled
     to right field, or not chosen at all—
we didn’t know the lesson was injustice,

just how much of it we could tolerate.
     But always there’d be the boys
who never got it, calling foul when foul

there wasn’t, marking with an X the spot
     where the ball didn’t hit.
Where are they now? What are they doing?

Lucky that some of us who loved recess
     came to love school,
found the books that gave us a few words

for what the aggrieved already knew. Lucky
     that within rules
freely accepted we came to recognize a heart

can be ferocious, a mind devious and fair.