On “The Vaunted Champion of Indianapolis” (#16)

Continuing the trend of looking at the world through the eyes of children, we moved from Sin City to the Midwest for our next poem. We shifted our focus slightly, looking at one younger child in a suburban environment rather than a group of elementary-school-aged children in the big city.

On August 25, 2009, Martin had opined:

The allure of Vegas kept […] this poem [from having] the “wondrous view” of a small kid – I still think Indianapolis might be better a better fit for that and I think we should write that poem, too…

John agreed and responded with a few initial lines:

When he gets big, he’s going to be an army guy because they’re good / at shooting dinosaurs harassing Mommy and Grandma, especially T-Rexes // that are part vampire.  But sometimes, he’ll also become a racecar driver, / slapping juicebox stickers over the golden flanks of the palomino minivan

We also agreed that a third-person perspective was the way to go, to avoid the limited diction of a kindergartener. (It struck us that it might also be too tricky for two separate adult men to synthesize a consistent voice for a particular small child. Maybe in the future…)

Despite the dubious allure of Martin’s work responsibilities, we were able to wrap the poem up by September 6, 2009. Uncharacteristically, John supplied the ending, adding a possible happy future ending to Martin’s image of a deserting father:

The night his father zoomed from the driveway, never to return, he was told // that the moon was a racetrack, and that his blood would pump in his veins / assisted by his pit crew with brown bag lunches, tied shoes and kisses for fuel. // So he’s going to collect on the deal, even in fighter jets frenzies and hydroplane / lunges, he’ll find the old man and rassle him, going “Tag. You’re It.” and away.

(Trivia fact: When Martin sends an ongoing poem back toward John, he often writes “TAG” for a message. He thus inspired the bit of dialogue John included in the final line.)

“The Vaunted Champion of Indianapolis” first appeared in Connecticut River Review (2010). It is the sixteenth poem in the final sequence of Poets’ Guide to America.

About poetsguide

A former altar boy and a former U.S. Army interrogator, respectively, John F. Buckley and Martin Ott were born and raised in Michigan, meeting each other at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor before separately migrating to California in the early 1990s to attend graduate schools, their friendship evolving into a writing collaboration – what they refer to as poetic volleyball. They both currently live in Southern California, John with his wife, Martin with his wife and two children. John teaches English composition at several local colleges, while Martin works as a marketing strategist for a global company. John still affects a strange piety; Martin still finds himself asking a lot of questions. Individually and together, their writing has appeared in over 150 periodicals and anthologies, garnering three Pushcart Prize nominations for Martin’s poems “India Ivy” and “When Bridges Fall” (available in his collection Children of Interrogation, which has been a finalist or semi-finalist in eighteen poetry prizes) and John’s “Poem for Christy’s Daughter” (available in his collection Kinks in the Hose). Martin has also optioned three screenplays. His chapbook Misery Loves was published on Red Dancefloor Press. John’s chapbook Breach Birth was published on Propaganda Press.
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