THIS BLANCHED ABRASION WE CALL IN
By now we grab our knees
after each basket. Our sweat
specks dark the grassless dirt
beneath us. We strain
for breath in a midsummer’s sauna
where, at day’s end, the game is hard
to figure; a frayed plywood backboard
with bent rim hangs, a shadow nailed
to a wooden post that leans
to catch what’s left of the sun.
The sides have already been picked.
Shirts and skins alike ignore
their mothers’ calls:
Let’s finish this thing.
PJ cradles the ball at the top of the key, all elbows,
then drives, his dribble muted
by the dust we deem our court,
this blanched abrasion we call In.
We’re all baptized, the Arkansas Delta’s
straitened array of Baptists, Pentecostals, and Backsliders
way beyond tired with contesting fouls:
Just take it out. Our chests heave
for air we cannot hold as night tightens.
To block the hook and time the rebound
our ardor grinds the earth into fine enough
motes to become our very breath,
to be flung by the blue million
into next week, fine enough
to slip through venetian blinds or
be sucked up by the window AC
and spit out as a gray film
of unwelcomed whit and iota over
the coffee table and the family bible.
Tomorrow we’ll be back at school early
where hardly a one of us made the cut.
So determined, we turn on each other
for now as the basket’s being swallowed
closing in from the woods
across the way, we’re shades at our best
clamoring, pestled bits of hair, bone, and blood,
beset till one side wins by two
and we drop our guard: Great game, man.
We make our spent way back together
to TV, homework, and supper waiting.
From all across the subdivision
the night air carries voices we know,
calling us home by our full names.
Terry Minchow-Proffitt's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Arkansas Review, Christian Century, Deep South Magazine, decomP magazinE, Desert Call, Oxford American, Prick of the Spindle, and St. Ann’s Review.