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  • Liz Ahl

At the University Hockey Game

Updated: 3 days ago

By Liz Ahl

I’m never quite sure

what I should pay attention to—

I can barely follow the puck’s

ricochet across the ice, so instead

I watch the bodies of the players

who chase it, two of them my students,

their last names emblazoned across their shoulders,

but they move so quickly they become numbers

for most of the game, though occasionally,

through the helmets’ cages, I make out their eyes,

dark bullets seeking the careening target,

the object of a desire so physical an invisible

wire slings them back and forth

across the ice in pursuit—

How am I supposed to feel when one of them,

generally quiet and compliant during class,

gets sent to the penalty box for some offense

I missed that left him and another player

sprawled side by side? In the chilly stands,

protected on the other side of the glass,

I know how I feel when he’s sprung,

slung back into the choreographed swarm

of his team’s final, overtime push to want harder,

to take from the Visitors, with blades and blows,

what they must.



By Liz Ahl

How have you survived

the whiteboarding and digitizing?

You leave yourself behind, everywhere.

My fingertips, my shirt front, my hair.

Your ghostly remains gather

in the corners of the classroom.

As I scrawl across the board,

you leave letters strung into words –

all of it made

from the left-behind parts of you –

your blood, your dandruff.

Whose turn is it to go outside

to clap you from the erasers

in the brisk afternoon light?

Companion to slate and sidewalks,

cousin to the number two pencil,

from what ivory mine

were you scraped? Or did you wash up

on a beach, like a shell or bone?

Always, in the nick of time,

a fresh stick appears,

left by a kindly, invisible steward.

You taste like Pepto-Bismol,

like granite, like fear.

I use you up, like language,

grate you down to nubs.

You are one inch,

you are dust, and to dust

you shall return,

are always returning.


Liz Ahl is the author of the poetry collections A Case for Solace (Lily Poetry Review Books, 2022) and Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2017). Individual poems have appeared recently in Rogue Agent, West Trestle Review, Able Muse, and elsewhere. She is a member of the faculty at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. Her website:

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