Terry Minchow-Proffitt: "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

by dusk

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. Anns Review.