Vol. 1, No. 2: Line Drives & Bloop Hits photo

Poem in which Kerri Strug does not vault a second timeDia Roth

—1996 Olympic Gymnastics Team All-Around Competition, Atlanta

after Gabrielle Grace Hogan, and for my sister

Kerri stands at attention—a young soldier—ready 
to serve at the pleasure of the public. Our beloved 

VHS tape whirs tired as she sprints down the runway 
toward ruin and glory: her rippling legs spring

and soar weightless, outstretched body 
reaching, arms crossed tight against her torso, 

and for a brief moment we forget about gravity. 
Kerri isn’t granted this luxury. Patriotism is heavy:

the ground approaches fast, refuses to be ignored 
and by the time the rest of us remember, 

Kerri has already fallen. Her bangs—having floated 
carefree on a self-made wind—wilt

back onto her forehead, shocked 
by their own weight. But oh, how we long to mimic 

her flight!—our soft approximations tumble 
across plush furniture, blue carpet, and

collapse to the floor in awe. Rewind, 
watch again how she rises: stoic, determined. 

The announcer notices her limping 
and remarks, Kerri Strug is hurt!, feigning care.

Her coach, Bela Karolyi—infamous 
then for excellence and now for abuse—shouts 

from the sideline, You can do it! You can do it! 
but no one bothers to wonder if she should. 

The announcer reminds us again of the stakes: 
It all comes down to Kerri. She needs a 9.493 to ensure 

victory over the Russians, although 
the scores say otherwise. She could not 

vault again and her team would still win. Reader, 
spectator, please, hear this: it was decided, long before

Kerri was born, that she would vault again
on this day, broken ankle or no, because 

glory has always been worth more than one girl. 
So there she balances, toes tipped, on the brink of breaking.

Tears tumble from our eyes now, a brackish 
mix of propaganda, spectacle, sick nostalgia: all U  S  A 

and oh say can you feel the Cold 
War lingering? We cry every time 

the announcer says, she knows what to do, she will go 
when she is ready
, because oh, reader, what if she didn’t? 

What if she turned to her teammates, who recognized 
in her the crumple of defeat that comes 

when failure is the only alternative 
to excellence? What if they rushed to her, pulled 

by their magnetized knowing? Their bodies 
would whisper hushed confessions, hold each other 

close, take Kerri into their sculpted arms,
and carry her home—magnificent.