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Problema 1

Because Venus lifted the Rosewater Dish like a shield

in the sun the graying father of two swatted a juggle

of balls against a playground wall that had been graffitied

for an episode of Law & Order set in the hood.

The desiccated catgut of his racquet strummed

like a junkyard harp with each gouty ground stroke.

A muscle fire stoked to warm the bagpipes in his chest.

Like a waft of charcoal in the park, there came to him

thought of the bargain implied in God’s command

to Abraham. Not unlike Robert Johnson’s deal

at the crossroads or Gauguin’s pricey escape from

the obscurity of the middle class, these appeals

to the brute motives of the blood, mortal

insecurity seeking relief in the barter for fertility,

which is to say, fame. This was the mind of the man

as he stiffened and hid his wind in a falsely barreling

chest, setting out to retrieve what may have seemed

portentous—a citrine moon descending

on the shirtless men playing handball

on the opposite court, an intrusion like a cell phone

ringing in Alice Tully Hall. Their annoyance was muted

but palpable for they, too, were performing

the ritual of their devotions. What he wouldn’t give to hear,

like a nest of hungering chicks, his flock, the epochal

cry of thousands in the stadium around Centre Court,

his name on the wind. Perhaps he’d swap it all for the boy

he once was, the future altered, and follow

some stellar herald, righteousness and treason

arcing in his mind like a halo, to risk a life

he could only begin to imagine.

from DigestFind more by Gregory Pardlo at the library

Copyright © 2014 Gregory Pardlo
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Gregory Pardlo Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.