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 forced errors are all you get

 

These late August mornings

I wake the neighbors

with the wham! wham! of a basketball

He who cursed their roaring lawnmowers

rises early now, sleepless again,

scanning the scoreboard

for judgment day in bankruptcy court

 

They pretend not to notice but

stop waving from back porches

 

Birds broadcast the verdict

from yard to yard:

Fouled out! Fouled out!

 

This house I painted three times by hand

and stopped the leaks

Our 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 brushed off

with bad advice

My daughter, gone too,

I left on the sidelines

I got caught in the confusion

of traveling, traveling, traveling

 

I wonder if anyone still watches me

from a bedroom window

execute a perfect textbook lay up

and drive across the centerline

into middle age

 

Here in the fast break of autumn

I 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 and 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,

bruises, tics, chewed cuticles, gastric distress

 

In the heat 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