Tether by M.E. Riley


by M.E. Riley

Tether ball hung from overgrown
maple really a soccer ball dented in
half with yellow nylon rope
but stepfather called it tether ball
That’s what it was

School was over
I pushed the trampoline beneath
the tree jumped high enough to bite
the tip off an oak leaf
I shoved my fist into the bulging ball
it swung away from me it swung back
towards me my bouncing sports bra
small knots I’d been praying for
Weren’t as big as my cousin’s she wore
a nude bra with underwire so her peach
knobs wouldn’t show through
tight Aeropostale shirts I’d never been able to afford

Didn’t even want a brand name
across my breasts till I saw hers
stretching the cotton-stitched logo
my neighbor groping spaces between
a and e, r and o
their moans growing as I tried
keeping distracted Baywatch playing on
his TV mounted in the corner

Summer heat swelled the room
his Nascar bedspread felt
scratchy back of my neck sweated walls
bowed in like pairs of hips
squished soccer balls I looked through his
bedroom windows across the street was my house
backyard and trampoline the tether ball
swinging with every hot thrust of wind

I played in the backyard till mid-August
even though Mama fussed about it being too hot
I jumped and punched and bounced and swung
till I heard a screen door open and shut
across the street my neighbor shirtless jerking
lawn mower pull cord it revved up then went
quiet revved then quiet rev-sigh, rev-sigh, I watched
till humidity grew thick my throat clenched

M.E. Riley is an Assistant Poetry Editor for Bayou Magazine, as well as a regular contributor to Bayou’s blog. Work has most recently appeared in Nude Bruce Review, Eunoia Review, Belle Journal, and Tales from the South VI.