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Poetry by Isaac James Richards

In Tennis, Love Means Nothing

There are two types of tennis, love:
sunbaked clay, green-groomed grass,
a California country club—or
shoveling snow off the courts in March.

Wimbledon-white shoes, gold
Luxilon strings, seeded circuit,
pay-to-play, Daddy Warbucks bracket—or
stiff, thread-bare balls and fraying nets.

When we played cold tennis, in North Idaho,
which were we playing? It’s clear, now
that we’re married, but in the moment, love
made me, in wristbands, feel famous.

That eleven-year-old with glasses,
watching slow-motion Federer forehands
on YouTube all winter long… forget
a sixteen-court complex or ball machine.

No gold-star academy disciplined dream
could beat a bus ride south to Boise,
red-hot bathroom tears, broken strings,
Hawk-Eye pinpointing your place: out.

Just the wind, firm enough to float a short lob
backwards—back over the net—reversing
misfortune. What might have been, love?
What was both fiercer and fonder in memory.

Rodin in the Park

snow / sloughs / bough / bomb / brush /
crust / crumble / crunch / catch / cough /
which is to say / as I passed under a fir /
falling crystals tapped me on the shoulder /

a drip directly down the nape of my neck /
cold lips / warm breath / fuse / tongue / pole /
which is to say / we kissed / stone / statues /
courtyard / cast iron / embrace / eternal /

there’s no difference / between / them / us /
on this bench / or petrified bronze / lovers /
lips never unlocking / never thawing / still /
enough to balance snow on their shoulders / 

as a kid / I imagined / making out / with /
amateur / neighborhood / sculptures / because /
no one would / make out / with me / but now /
I know / bone / marble / stone / tongues /

it’s all French / kissing / for immortality.

Isaac James Richards

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