Seventeen circle the rim of the gym
in orbit around the instructor who yells
and yells and yells. They listen to him.
(The fathers, in hopefulness, peer from the halls.)

Seventeen scissor their legs on the mats,
slashing the air, like quick little knives.
They are told to develop their glutes and their lats.
(The fathers remember their whey-pasty wives.)

Seventeen shoulder their bags to the courts;
their elders assure them it’s not about winning
but wince, as the possible pecks at their hearts.
(The fathers are fat and their forelocks are thinning.)

Seventeen play to the darkening hours
then peel off in columns, exhausted and little.
They go to the washrooms and tremble in mirrors.
(The fathers bare teeth, lemon-coloured and brittle.)

Seventeen eight-year-old creatures are moving;
they climb into vans. As if speaking to God,
they venture, I think that I’m really improving.
The fathers hit gas and devour the road.

This appeared in the November 2016 issue.

Alexandra Oliver won the 2014 Pat Lowther Award for Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway.

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