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ISSUE:  Summer 1999

The Germans have a word for it, the pleasure
in what one does best. Don’t fret the accent;
savor the sense of gibbons swinging tree to tree,

cats creeping through high weeds, dogs chasing
frisbees into seaside froth. I always knew “fun”
just began describing what they felt; “lust”

was the ignoble hind-end. I loved to watch
a scissortail flycatcher pluck gnats from thin air
while its long tail kicked and fluttered,

treading sky. I loved to see box turtles bull
through dewberry tangles, their red, orange,
and yellow heads stained deep maroon.

Football and basketball were fine, but the first time
I slipped a leather fielder’s mitt on my left hand,
and stretched my five-year-old fingers around

a slick white Spalding ball, the first time my varnished
Louisville Slugger split the air, I knew there had
to be some word to celebrate my certainty

that on the Dad’s Club All Stars, August, 1965,
I’d leap to catch a line drive, scramble on my knees
to second base to make an unassisted double play,

then go four-for-five, and triple in the winning run.
Microphone in hand, singing “Knights in White Satin”
at the Houston Colosseum, or kissing Linda

in the room I’d dared to rent after the prom,
I knew some caveman must have uttered sounds
that have survived—syllables to describe

that feeling that makes us bear our fardels, pay
our taxes, undergo our chemotherapy—a word
for what a sailboat knows, running before the wind—

a rattler knows, as it sinks fangs into a mouse—
a baby who’ll never speak a word of German knows,
tasting the nipple, the sweet milk flooding in.


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