CALLING TIME

Face it, there’s more than

a jump shot and high caliber pass,

but not much.

It’s the basket at the buzzer you remember.

A few mistakes are all you get.

These late August mornings I wake the neighbors

with the wham wham of a basketball.

He who cursed their self-propelled’s

rises early now, sleepless again,

scanning the scoreboard

for judgment day in bankruptcy court.

They pretend not to know

but stop waving from backporches.

The birds broadcast the verdict

from yard to yard: Fouled out! Fouled out!

This house I painted three times by hand

and stopped all the leaks.

My trees took fifteen years to look their age.

We raised the hoop on a birthday bash,

four of us or more, enough for two on two,

slurring our words and missing the rim.

But one season tumbles into another.

McArty, local twenty-one champ,

doesn’t have time anymore,

running, running for school board.

Ace Rivera, all-state guard,

would rather just drink.

My son, I pushed off with advice.

My daughter, gone too, I ignored.

From a bedroom window someone still watches me

execute a textbook lay up

and drive across the centerline into middle age.

Yet here in the fast break of autumn

I can maneuver from mid-court to the key,

opposed by no one but myself:

Back off, switch hands,

pivot into the choreography

of hook shot, sky and rebound.

Each quarter ends by my own clock.

In this world of dribblers and shooters

the closest distance between two points

is over the top.

One day when I have gone to buy the bread

they will come to post a final score

on the bat and board of my small, unthrifty life.

I will surrender none of my private strategies,

but they can carry off

high blood pressure, tics, gastric distress.

In the confusion of their full court press

I will signal a calling of time,

stop competing, be myself again.

Even the grubs gnawing the bluegrass will know

I’ll play again in another kind of season.

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