for his wife

When men shoot
baskets they are
doing a fertility dance–
they put it Alley–
, through
the womb

And the man
whose wife
cannot   produce
an heir (out
of the invisible air)

plays a pick up
game on Sundays,
mystery ritual, replaying
his failures over and over,
shoot and miss,

a technical foul, where
he’s got hometown advantage, smell
of gymnasium wax, hot
dogs, damp wool and shampoo,
a nickname, the point of
a lay-up, a poem
he wants me

to write, revise for him,
something he will give
his wife. The poem
where he buries the deflated,
dead ball he finds by the coursing river
into the   good earth because

she   knows
what the meaning is–
that he loved her, that he couldn’t
stand the truth–how he’s squandering
his vitality on a sport
he’ll never win. Men provoking
each other to gain control
mostly of themselves.

Elizabeth Powell’s first book of poems, The Republic of Self, won the New Issues Poetry Prize. Her recent work has appeared in Ploughshares, Missouri Review, Post Road, and Alaska Quarterly Review, among others. Her essay “Infidelities” appeared in My Mother Married Your Father, an anthology of essays on step-families, published by WW Norton. She teaches at the University of Vermont, and is poetry editor of Green Mountains Review.

*Photo courtesy of riebschlager.