playing volleyball at Maryville Academy

Jan Ball

maybe because we wanted to hate them,
we tried to be as coarse and boisterous
as possible, whispering the secret codewords
we’d devised crushed in Gail’s old Chevy
as we drove from one Chicago high school
to another throughout varsity volleyball season, 
guffawing loudly when we scored some
adolescent verbal points, gyrating our limbs
with moonwalk precision, scraping our high-
tops ostentatiously until they squeaked on the
honeyed gym floors between spikes, set-ups
and flat serves that pounded our opponents.

maybe their polished hair, gleaming skin
and perfect teeth penetrated the hard veneer
we’d effected to dominate teams less trained
than us but unlike them, Maryville didn’t
start picking their cuticles or spouting 
obscenities under their breath but rather told
us we could swim in their indoor pool; even
though we hadn’t brought our bathing suits,
they lent us theirs, a generosity that overwhelmed
us as we submerged ourselves like movie Indians
in a river, every waterstirring reverberating
on the vanilla tiles and softening our skin.

Jan has had 361 poems published in various journals internationally and in the U.S. including: ABZ, Mid-American Review, and Cordite Review, Australia. Finishing Line Press published her three chapbooks and first full-length poetry collection, I Wanted To Dance With My Father. Orbis, England, nominated her for the Pushcart Prize in 2020 and Constellations nominated her for it in 2021.

Besides her poetry, Jan wrote a dissertation at the University of Rochester: Age and Natural Order in Second Language Acquisition after being a nun for seven years then living in Australia for fourteen years with her Aussie husband and two children. Jan has taught ESL in Rochester, New York and Loyola and DePaul Universities in Chicago. When not traveling, or gardening at their farm, Jan and her husband like to cook for friends.



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