Where He Dwells: Arian Foster Through the Lens of his Poetry

When one searches for Arian Foster in Google, his eponymous website is only the 9th result. It’s preceded by a myriad of sites, most centered around Foster’s value as a running back. Sites such as NFL.com and Pro Football Reference log his professional stats, while Rotoworld considers Foster’s value as inherently related to fantasy sports. One might consider this a simple SEO pissing contest, with metrics determining Foster’s relevance to the world. But beyond the surface, it offers a brutal thesis: Arian Foster, the football player, is more significant than Arian Foster, the human.

If you maneuver through the minefield of stats on stats on stats and injury reports, you might reach ArianFoster.org. I suspect that this is the first site curated by an NFL player featuring a tab called Musings, home to quotes, miserly (and untitled) poems, and more liberal prose. The fan who watches football to taunt, celebrate violence, and eat doesn’t click on Musings. The fan with insatiable bloodlust doesn’t know that all four of Foster’s poems contain either “bleed,” “blood,”, or “cuts.” Not cuts like the ones he makes slicing up defenses, cuts as in burden and pain.

Foster is comfortable bearing his soul. His signature celebration is a Hindu bow, hands clasped at the heart, an intimate handshake offered in reverence to the world. Called Namaste, the gesture is salient enough for Foster to include it in his Twitter biography, styled as a trend. If Foster’s intent was to trend it, he succeeded; Justin Tuck pilfered the overture in front of millions of eyes in the Super Bowl, as well as on morning program Live! With Kelly (now co-hosted by Tuck’s ex-compatriot, Michael Strahan.) Foster’s response was a zen “#namaste Misure Tuck.” And his poetry offers emotional voyeurs a window into his inner self. His poetry (unlike SSH favorite JJ Redick) is introspective, and quite good. I would call it surprisingly good, but it should come as no shock that an enigmatic personality like Foster transcends the mold of an athlete.

Where we dwell – By Arian Foster

When minds are at war with hearts,
And light is at war with dark,
This is where glory dwells,
Where warriors whisper hymns,
Of blood lost in vain,
Where time twists and bends,
And echoes all our names,
Here is where those diamonds dwell,
Polished in dust.
From swamps to stars, we dreamed far,
They called it far-fetched, we called it ours.
We called them lessons, they called them scars,
They call it blessings, this work was hard,
That is where we dwell.
The past worn as capes, memory as armor,
The karma we bring,
Sings truth to the soul,
Like kings mingling with pawns, or soup in my bowl.
We came from golden slums, and makeshift drums, but our music made the spaceships come,
Navigate our thoughts and sever our tongues, unbound by men,
forever we run

I’m not going to bore you with form and meter- Foster’s composition isn’t about pretentiously cramming thoughts into the burdensome confines of syllabic patterns. In the sole stanza, Foster dramatizes the conflict between adversity and success. He creates a pivotal peak in life, the summit of the journey that cedes into the descending into the valley of greatness- if one has the fortitude to resist naysayers and haters. The turning point of Foster’s life he may be alluding to? Intuition says that it’s his 2012 switch to veganism. The “wounded warriors telling “of blood lost in vain” are clearly those against the slaughter of animals, the beasts mutilated for human consumption.

 Where We Dwell then shifts the subject from this crossroads to “diamonds…polished in dust.” The word polished is a juxtaposition, as these hidden gems are sheathed by the dust that obscures them from vision. Foster himself is a clear example of a hidden gem, an undrafted backup from Tennessee who possessed the will, size, and talent to become the jewel among NFL rushers. Perhaps Foster’s dust was the nickname “Fumbles,” bestowed upon him after a costly bowl game giveaway.

Line 10 claims the journey was “from swamps to stars.” Using a swamp to describe Foster’s lowest point is a nod to the dominance of the Florida Gators (who play home games in “The Swamp”) over his Volunteers, as Foster never defeated them in four collegiate meetings. Held to only 37 rushing yards in a 30-6 2008 thrashing, Foster was even worse the year before, tallying only 26 with a fumble returned for a Gator score as Florida romped, 59-20. Foster ran for a total of 13 yards in two Gator wins in 2005 and 2006.

Foster crusades against negative thinking, denouncing those who ridicule shooting for the stars. In the line bearing the title, Foster builds the adobe of the collective reader in the dwelling of concealed diamonds and glory. He has overcame the doubt and warnings, the dust obscuring the prize. And though he has eclipsed them, he has not forgotten them, instead donning the past as armor. Foster is a white knight, on a quest to free others of negative vibes.

The concluding 5 lines adopt an almost rhapsodic assonance. “Kings mingling with pawns” is likely a reference to Foster’s Twitter feed, where he actively converses with fans and followers. Alternatively, last weekend, rushing royalty Foster mingled with Dolphins sharkbait Jimmy Wilson, taunting him for his relative anonyminity in the league.

The final phrase being emphasized in bold affirms to me that Foster is the speaker, and lends a literal interpretation to the figurative final line. When Foster straps on his armor every Sunday, it’s as if he’s being unbound from from the rigors of pessimism. The line also refers to the collective we- just like Foster’s trademark bow. Foster dwells both in text and beyond the goal line, his end zone namaste a physical incarnation of the inclusive first person, of the We.