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The Baseline

I was in a neurosurgeon’s waiting room awaiting Aaro’s test results—

he’d slammed his skull on the basketball court & his pupils pulsed

cartoony, black spirals & asterisks, & loony exclamations. His dizzy

days had placed us in the clipboard’s teeth, snapping. NBA season—

the finals—& Doctor Phil was interviewing a boy who’d killed his

mother—bashed his mother’s head with a sledgehammer & set her

house on fire.

“It’s ritual,” said the doc, “It’s self-soothing.”

To bash someone’s head? To set a house on fire?

Okay, Doc. Okay, America. Okay.

I forget how daytime gnaws us till evening if we linger too long in its

jaws. Everything wrong with us seemed to glow from the insides of

a flat screen. I wondered what was up next? A razor? A switchblade?

A machete? Little bits of bone? The boy’s little blonde brother, nearly

dying, too?

Okay, Homemakers. Okay, Ratings.

A nurse walked Aaro to an exam room. Free throws & foul shots

chatter. Winners & losers. Favorite players. LeBron James slept

somewhere between games. How many times had Aaro hit his head in

the past few years?

“Bring it in,” Aaro said when I joined him. “Chill,” he said.

Did this mean he was the kind of son who’d hug his mother tightly

before turning away? The kind of kid who shrugged off blond boys,

the kind of kid who’d leave home at twelve & assemble a band &

adorn his fro with feathers & cowries & swear he learned the birds &

the bees from Netflix, Grand Theft Auto & the Internet?

Okay, Worst Fears.

What was the last thing Aaro remembered? A thwack. The court’s

distant border. I forget how competitive he gets. I forget how fragile.

Diagnosis: no games for three weeks. Supervised exercise. Rest. Okay,

Inevitable. My mother didn’t care much for television. “Turn that stuff

off,” she’d say. “Talk to me.” I forget how mustache begins in shadow,

how hairlines fade gradually. What makes a child turn? One year,

Cleveland fans burned LeBron’s jersey.

Okay, Christians. Okay, Cavaliers.

I forget how every son leaves us at least once. I forget how quiet a

house without television. Son, don’t bring any spiders home. Or

lovers or trash talk. I forget how we bring those, anyway. I forget

how hypnotic the television.

Eat your dinner, son. Eat your dinner.

from You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for LoveFind more by Yona Harvey at the library

Copyright © 2020 Yona Harvey
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Used with the permission of Four Way Books.

Published in Poems Yona Harvey

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.