Esso Special
by Harry Groome

The years pass like yard markers: 20, 30, 40 -
Some muddied with stories best not told.
At midfield my quarterback's first born, his very likeness, dies,
An irregular heart beat betraying his teenage body,
And my friend calls at midnight. I mutter, "sorry,"
Bow my head, once again huddled for his direction.

A frigid December day and a child's football rests on a lawn.
I stoop, spine brittle as a frozen twig, fused from 60 years of wear,
Shovel the ball to him, and call our play, the Esso Special
He cocks his heavily jacketed arm, and the ball arches -
More of a plea than a spiral - against the bright sky
And I am sprinting, Yes, sprinting!
It hits the tips of my rigid fingers, bounces free, and I lunge,
Bat it again, and suddenly the ball is floating for me
And I clutch it with slow hands to my chest,
And cry back through time, "Yes! God, yes!"
For the boy who once played in my body,
The boy who once lived in his home,
Both leaving empty shells filled with pain and immobility.
Saying sorry was not enough, but neither of us speaks -
It is time to line up for the point after touchdown.

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