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Super Bowl Party

ISSUE:  Fall 2004

Under the streetlamp
cars glistened end
to end clogging the cul
de sac and driveway
and even the front yard
of the small house whose
windows were shadowy
with friends you wanted me
to meet.
              And in the house
the game glowed from the big screen
and we in different phases
of our middle age
about it, drinks in hand,
watching, not watching,
drifting from small talk
to smaller talk, eyes
from the
              changed formations, the
timing routes, the thud
of impact
              to whom-
ever it was we talked with
and then beyond them, slyly,
now and again,
                       to others
in the room whose eyes were just
as slyly glancing at us
without appearing to.

The game glowed from another
smaller screen in the bright
kitchen where Ann—your
dearest friend with MS
who’d broken up with Tim
the week before because
he drank too damn much
and she was sick of it—
was fixing him a drink.
      And where the beautiful
gaunt woman with high
                   that were higher,
more beautiful for the gauntness,
the bald head,
                      leaned against
her husband through the evening
under the blunt lighting
she must have surely felt
too looked-at in,
                          for hadn’t
there been rumors of
a brief affair, his moving
out, then in again
when she got sick,
                             so that
it almost seemed their every
gesture of affection
and solicitude,
                      which all
of us found so touching,
have been
                  not only a late
imperiled flowering
of old devotion,
defiance too,
                     of us,
of what they knew
                            we knew,
the very ones they charmed
all evening,
                 leaning her head
against his chest, his hand
all evening on her shoulders.

The game glowed from the big screen,
the under-
                dogs were running
up the score,
                    my eyes
were shifting from the adjustments,
the audibles, the cut
back moves
                   to you
in what phase of desire,
what entangling
seeing for the first time
in years
             the ex who’d
cheated on you and
deceived you, and who now
was joking with the very
man you briefly
                        left him
for before his change
of heart that just as soon
as you returned

shadowy hunger of
what under story
of relation on the
               of your
              kept you silent
even when the streaker
streaked across the field
and held up play as someone
beside us muttered, that’s
as close to scoring as
we’re gonna get?
of phases. Unspoken relations
of our middle age.
                           The game
glowed, nearly over.
                               We didn’t
know Ann had disappeared
with Tim into the bedroom
till she, flushed and laughing,
in a silver and black dress
in honor of the losing
team, emerged
unsteadily, drink in one
hand, the other holding
onto Tim’s sleeve.
                           And if
you wondered why she hadn’t
warned you that your ex
would be there,
you thought
in her unhappiness
she might have grudged you this
new happiness with me,
her love for you?
                         because of it?
you wouldn’t say;
                           and I too
could not have told
                             the difference
       between affection and
a demonstration of
affection, affection as
defiance or revenge
or courtesy when in
full view
              of him you put
your arm around me, leaned
your head against my shoulder
and whooped
                    and cheered more loudly
than the others as Ann
to Tim with one hand,
raised in the other to
the losing team,
giddily from living
room to kitchen back
to living room
                      in that
halting, brave,
                      toddler half-
step way of hers that all
of us have lately noticed
getting so much worse.


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