An Offertory, On A Small Court

I just had another poem published, “An Offertory, On A Small Court,” at Hobart.

I wondered if you ever accidentally thought of him when we were having sex
When you whispered my name against my throat, did you think of a basketball player
Did you think of his mouthguard, all hanging out of his mouth, full of bubbly spit

My writing buddy and I once joked that we could just make any of our stories into a poem by pressing Enter more, and yeah, that’s dismissive and prejudiced of us, we know, but oh god, it was so freeing to me. I finally thought: Okay, I could do this. I could think: did that thought end? And I could press enter. I could think: Did that thought really end or does it bleed a little? And then I’ll use punctuation, or I won’t. (There’s more to it than I am capable of spelling out). I thought: I could poem, even if I couldn’t poet.

I think poetry makes me uncomfortable. It’s unnerving and confusing. It can be lovely, distracting, and intense. I’m largely uneducated on the matter. I only read poetry that I love and I think for me to love it, it has to be a story, or a character so unavoidable that the story falls around them.

There’s a muddy timeline in this story, muddy allegiances for our Steph, Steph the girl, Steph not Curry. There’s a muddy sense of what she has and what she doesn’t have, what she never had, what never loved her back. Muddy love.

Luke still posts such great selfies: flawless, gorgeous, smooth skin, weird and happy
Each one is a week’s worth of sadness for me, for how I’m not there
There being weird and happy. There being in the picture. There, a paper cup

I think all of that mud and the fragmented nature of this story I wanted to tell is what drove me to write it in poetry form. I didn’t set out to do it. I’d been working this out in my head for a while, and I was a little drunk on New Year’s Eve when I finally sat down to write it and it just fell from me with, like, stanzas and tercets and, yes, maje line breaks.

We turned off the game and let the dog in, cold, almost damp, stinking of winter
Of a season we didn’t even understand. I snapped at you to shut the door
Then closed it myself, in lieu of apologizing, in lieu of a lot

And then the basketball stuff. I love sports but I’m not very fannish. I don’t watch sports with regularity, for no real reason other than time management and the daunting undertaking of following a team for an entire season. I can do the World Cup, a fierce and finite couple of weeks. I can do the Olympics. I can fair weather fan. But there’s something of a social undercurrent surrounding Steph Curry and I felt a little obsessive, not about him per se, but about that undercurrent. And that fucking mouthguard.

I hate basketball with the court so small and the people so big, gangly
Limbs everywhere, hardly any room to move. To breathe. To fail.

I used some lines from the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer, because I’m kind of post-church and I will always kind of love liturgy. The Offertory is a rite for when they lift up the communion wine and host in their silver cups, and it’s reverent, and then they pass a plate around asking for cash.

(Raise the cup, ascribe honor, bring offerings and come into his courts)

One other undeniable inspiration for this piece is this old Sarah Harmer/Weeping Tile song “Dogs and Thunder.” I know this song inside my bones which is how I managed to weave it into a story without hearing it in years. Especially here:

I dug and you poured booze into tin cups. I couldn’t dig deep enough in the cold
A half-buried dog beneath a mound of dirt and snow, a cross made of sticks
We raised our cups and I tried not to cry but it felt so alone with no dog, with just you

So yeah, a poem. Kind of about basketball. Kind of about Steph Curry. Kind of about unrequited love. Special thanks to Hobart for loving it too and for rushing it so it was published during the NBA finals with the below fantastic image. I hope you like it. Here’s the whole thing.


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