It was your day off when I came into the world.
Until then you had no interest in dried leaves,
or how a woman might use her hand as a scale
to pour raisins into a bowl or how water moves to the sea.
What use was there in something so vast,
something you had not seen with your own eyes?
In any case you were never one for fishing,
for waiting for life at the end of a line.
After the nightshift you would park the Mazda
on the drive, rest the paper on the steering wheel,
pen in one hand, beef sandwich in another.
Seventeen across—nut roast cooked for high fliers (10).
You would wait for the street sweeper to appear in your wing mirror.
Listening to his broom comb the pavement as you held your sandwich
like fruit flicking the radio to 99.8.
Twelve down—Girl carries on in Juliet’s place (6).
I don’t have this scene on tape but I know that I was six weeks late
and that the 12-inch cigar in your glove compartment was for me.
Mama would never let you smoke in the car. The weather report
you say was interrupted by a jackknifed lorry on the M6.
No casualties except the driver the only other person
you knew who had broken his collar bone in three places.
Hence the basketball in the back seat
and mood swings that have no language.
Don’t be afraid remember your wings—Seventeen down
(10) Astronaut. And the name you gave me—Twelve down—Verona.
The sun hung suspended between two houses when your heartbeat
slowed and I became something new you could catch in both hands.
On the B-ball court when the sun bent its neck
to look through trees, I shot free-throws like a gambler
throwing it all in regardless. The sky flickered blue.
On scuzzied rooftop light streamed across the wall
and disappeared. There was no death only change.
Sometimes I am troubled by the strange doubleness.
What name do you give the departed? Those that
transmute in an exhibition of lightning. That’s the question
I was trying to erase with a new pair of Jordans, a backboard,
coconut water as my fuel supply, and cloudless Sunday afternoon.
I should be missing home or at home trying to understand him.
The only other person who rolls down the driver’s-side window
to smoke and thinks that the world can’t see, as the engine grinds
at the traffic lights adjacent to the church. Your church. At least
the one you were baptized in. Kind folk who in the city’s silence
call your name around a collection plate, humming. Part salesmen
part one-time prophets with their eyes closed trying to leave
this universe behind. Heel and soul they dance, hooked lips,
hooked lives because what smarter way is there to lose
your addictions than to prove yourself in front of the legend.