Off Church Ave, old men do cartwheels
on the asphalt of a middle school playground.
When they begin their Tai-Chi, they remove
jackets, & smooth the wrinkles out of the air.
I come courtside with Anthony- tarnished skills,
freshly inflated ball. We lay our jackets & keys
on the fence beside our water & any pride,
trying to recall the form & follow through.
Our opponents are ourselves, until three
ten-year olds demand a game. They talk smack,
have handles, rebounding elbows, cursing
like those they’ve observed, but play hard, fair.
A good shoot-around follows, as pigeons, the color
of the court, flock loudly, pecking gravel for candy.
We pick up our coats & keys, the old men
put their jackets back on, smiling broadly.
They walk in time with temperament, each step
a rest, but without their hands, the air returns to
what it was before: jagged breath, these lines whose
ridges crease, whose lack of ease cuts furrows.
Maximilian Heinegg is a high school English teacher in Medford, MA. His poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, December, Tar River Poetry, and Crab Creek among others. He is also a singer-songwriter whose music can be heard at www.maxheinegg.com