"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison

stereotype/lion (for the culture)

stereotype/lion (for the culture)

one day you’re moving into a drab two bedroom unit
with three new junior college teammates, walking
backwards up stairs white knuckling a full sized mattress
your father gruffly grunting as he grips the opposite end

and the following day when your parents are long
gone you’re finally settled into your shared room
you go to your first college party with J-rod at another
Vegas transplant’s home and you get your first taste
of Jaegermeister and wow. it’s incredible…
     ly disgusting

it’s like cold cough syrup mixed with old melted crayons
you meet new teammates from Maurice and Wes to Wiston
guys from Long Beach, California to Boston, Massachusetts
18 years old and fresh out of high school, like you
to 23 and fresh off an 18 month bid in Twin Towers
like what’s his name with the bleached fade and emerald green eyes

you smoke for the first time in like… a year and a half maybe?
     when was the last arrest? not the one where the K-9
     chased you down like a ’98 Mustang bumper, the one before
     where Michelle pulled on to a dead end street
     three blocks from home base.

just like then you cough and choke
on the wispy gray ropes in your throat
‘til the THC blooms like bougainvillea flowers
in the whites of your eyes

you walk through a door you believe leads to the bathroom
only to come upon two cheerleaders

     a blonde and a brunette 

alternating between siphoning thin crooked
lightning strips of blow through eager nostrils
and wrapping wet lips and fingertips around four or five
teammates’ erections.

you feel like a hyena who’s erroneously stumbled
upon a pride of frenzied lions, grateful
they are preoccupied by their bloodlust for gazelle.

the door latch clicks shut, echoing behind you with authority
your legs move on their own
as one of the lions bellows
come get you some, young buck
and unthinkably
you unbuckle.

moonlight punctures the lone window
the only illumination in a room
otherwise blanketed by darkness and hands latched on hips
     smacking ass
     echoing off the walls
     like the living room speakers

your own hard-on half-flaccid from nerves
disappears into the mouth of the pale brunette

as you come

to recall this night

three years later
     watching Blue Mountain State beneath the polka dot
     comforter on your box spring/mattress bed
     on a winter evening in Pullman, Washington

     and you ask yourself

          have i
          always been
          a lion?

Alex Hoffman-Ellis is originally from Los Angeles, earned his Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences from Washington State, and is a recently retired professional football player (1 year NFL, 4 years CFL) as well as a substitute teacher in Washington. He has been published by Mason J. Press – including a chapbook, “No Rainbows Without Rain”, Right Hand Pointing, Backlash Press, Skyblues, and 3downnation. Forthcoming publication includes a piece in Rattle in the “Athlete Poets” section of the upcoming Issue #60, and a piece in Apeiron Review. When not obliterating his body for sport or writing, he spends his spare time traveling, spearfishing, volunteering at the zoo, and walking on his hands somewhere along the Pacific Ocean’s coastline. Instagram: @signed.ahe, Twitter: @AHoffingtonPost

Cover photo by Gene Taylor on Unsplash