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Lay Down Sally

This time the leaves would stay put.
He made sure, crushing
the wilted edges of one pile
with a sodden log.
Brushed the taste of molder
from his lip, then turned
staring to the woods for another weight.

Tiny droplets drifted upward from the long grass
lobbed underhanded by a steady wind;
a heavy gust rushing in
smeared the prickly mound across the lawn
with the broad stroke
of a three-year-old fingerpainter;
the rich green mottled in one swipe.

Paul chuckled emptily
as Lay Down Sally jounced;
his mom's favorite song, he said,
then told him about her long wait.

He moved rapidly, now,
kicking the log aside
to wrest the anchored pile;
a short vertical,
wheelbarrow boot-steadied
hustled to the compost heap
one eye on the wind;

stood gloveless,
scrubbed stupidly
as though the slow decay
could warm.

Paul skated casually into the one-on-one
before it all caught up to him;
lifted the puck, upper corner
not a twitch from the frozen goalkeep.

In the gloom of a lakeside party,
another filled in–
it stopped being funny
long before the end,
Paul charging the blue line,
his scraping halt inches from it
with a laugh at the whistle,
at offside teammates' furious,
perplexed bellows.

I wouldn't introduce him
to your girlfriends, if I were you,
a girlfriend said.

Paul and his father starved
for three days.
They sat together
in the parking lot
and wolfed a whole loaf.

Lofting the yellow ball easily
at a finals match
firing dead straight ten feet off the court
over the head of his stunned opponent
to explode against the far wall
or burrow halfway into the chain link
shouting rocket serve
and snorting at the gasps.

He stood leaning on the rake
staring at the mottled lawn.
The wind lobbed cold droplets
underhanded, triggered a blink.

Paul chuckled emptily
as Lay Down Sally jounced;
his mom's favorite song;
then told him about her long wait.

She survived over five hours,
he'd been told,
staring up at the ribbed edge
of the steering wheel;
brushed by the telephone pole's
awry moonshadow
twisted, snapped
till the red shone much too late.

His father's pride kept him
away from the service,
and kept him away, too.

The woods' edge absorbed
the sodden log
with a mossy splash.
The wind did its job.

Nov. '99

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