Often, I shall revisit this raw error.
And, whereas, I can no longer
remember a name, for some reason
I can never quite forget the time
you once stepped—thinner, taller,
more than twice my age—over
the shorn hill’s lilac shell,
seemingly without sound.

I must have been sixteen or so.
I see you slip nearer, onto
the church’s fresh cement...

And I had been hit up for money
by strangers there before, but I’d seen
your face. We’d met. I’d gathered in
all the brash stories of that marred,
final year: Senior season, how you led
the home team through to their last
championship, in spite of the risks,
the same bad arch, so there were no
clumsy attempts at chit-chat, no
requisite effort to grab the rebounds,
or false flattery of my form, only
the chill, level focus of our need.

I recall I had some cash, but
for once I felt on that night.
I said we should play ball for it,
knowing you weren’t all
you’d been, betting you might
be too desperate not to find out.

Goddammit if you didn’t win,
if I didn’t take back the money,
press you to play me for it again.

_ The poem, including the title, is an anagram
of the first and the penultimate paragraph
of the first chapter of W.E.B. DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk.

Mike Smith | Mudlark No. 30
Contents | Snapshots