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First Love

ISSUE:  Spring 1988
At night we’d haunt the bleachers’ back row. Out there
was the center of something, baldness
quietly taking hold in the grass. Moths against the stadium
light like torn up notes.
When the traffic died some nightbirds
stuck in citrus along MacDonald Avenue
would whistle once at the silence, something
you forget nightbirds ever do, until they do.

I’d heard a story once about a fly ball gone foul
and denting in the dark blue roof of someone’s
Pontiac parked in the lot of Queen of Peace Church.
I used to wonder if a person could be killed
that way, walking casually toward downtown
by the right field fence and chosen, suddenly,
to take a speeding slider in the head.

In 1971, love was like that,
falling where the body was and where
the wind carried: Though he was short
and asthmatic. I stood there like one of the Mexican kids
on car bumpers waiting for some hard swing to send one
over, hollering, This one’s mine. And then
they’d scramble and elbow one another for it
like the whole safety of the free world
depended on this. But at night they were gone

and it was different, hollow, and he’d sit
a long time without speaking. I’d wait a long time
for something I believed he was
going to say. Once I put my hand
inside his shirt, feeling the strange cloudiness of hair.
Spring air from the field sank
like cooled coffee, a stone in shade.
I remember thinking I’d remember this
and it would come to me later on its own

when I’d just be walking casually at night
to lock the back door, or sitting down
to write a letter . . .deciding to whom.


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