Wednesday, May 27, 2020

My Father, Playing Tennis by Patrick Phillips

My Father, Playing Tennis

strikes a figure somewhere between
Australopithecus robustus, with its thick skull-crest
and massive, gnashing jaw,

and Homo habilis, that big-brow’d,
tool-making, late Pleistocenian,
wielding his racquet like a fire-charred limb,

eyes flashing, nostrils flaring
as he stalks the little green ball,
so in love with the chase

it must be a vestigial trait,
coded in the deepest, most ancient folds
of his cerebral cortex,

a throwback to the days
when the small, furry thing
darting just out of reach meant dinner,

when the zeal with which he smashes
easy volleys smack
at the other guy’s face meant survival.

Raising his sweat-banded forearm,
thick-boned and coated with black hair,
like the silver-back upland Gorilla gorilla,

he lofts the ball softly, cocks his arm,
and then kills it: grunting and spitting,
arms flailing wildly as he charges the net,

while in the far court I stand, just like what I am:
a fur-less, immature Homo Sapiens sapiens
staring, weak-kneed, at what I came from.

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