A Sad Super Bowl Poem

A Sad Super Bowl Poem

For some people, Super Bowl Sunday isn't about nacho plates and football jerseys, beer guzzling and fist pumps. Poet D. Gilson introduces us to one family whose darkest memories are bound to the day.
D. hails from the Ozarks—the Appalachians' nearest neighbor—and is a doctoral student in American Literature & Culture at The George Washington University. His chapbooks include Catch & Release, winner of the 2011 Robin Becker Prize for Queer Poetry, and Brit Lit, which—you guessed it—consists of poems about Britney Spears. With Will Stockton, his book Crush is forthcoming this March.


My Mother Plays Telephone

by D. Gilson

Because my oldest brother Marty died
on Superbowl Sunday, my mother makes
the round of telephone calls, checking
in on all of her children. First Carla,
the Jehovah’s Witness who lives
outside Leavenworth with her ex-con fiancé,
Sam, who everyone calls — without knowing
why — Daddy Rex. Then my brothers
Randy and Mike, who she knows will be
busy before long, watching the game
with their wives and children, licking,
not wounds, but the residue of Kentucky
Fried Chicken — coincidentally, Marty’s
favorite food — off of their thumbs
and forefingers, short like my own,
fat sausage digits that protrude from
every man’s hands in our family,
these calls to her oldest three living
children made quick, out of some mix
of love and obligation — my mother’s
words, not mine — which is sometimes
the recipe for everything we bake
in this life. When Mom calls my sister
Jennifer next, she always tells her
the story of when Marty rescued her
from drowning at the Aurora Municipal
Swimming Pool, pulling her tiny body
out of the deep end and performing
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, a story
that always ends the same way —
I don’t even know where he learned
CPR. Then our mother finally calls
me, her youngest, and she tells me, too,
of the time Marty saved my life. When
we drove home from the lake and a car
almost hit us head on, but in a split second
Marty swerved into the ditch beside
the county highway, totaling his blue Ford
pickup, leaving the two of us, brothers,
with only some scratches and sore necks.
And when she says this, I don’t tell her
my truth of the story. That I was only five
and Marty, twenty-three. That we had
been at the lake not as brothers,
but as meth dealers. That Marty was
drunk. That he fell asleep at the wheel.
That I reached across the pickup’s cab
and grabbed it, sending us into
the ditch, yes, but not saving him, really,
not doing the thing none of us can.