friendship, or i want to be where my men are

by Spencer Williams


not in, but on the other side of the chain link staring out at the court as my friend rushes from the hoop to the three-point line.   ball in hand—then not—he becomes less than blur, more a sturdy mass rounding  the blacktop again, again. the circle of his feet. again, his wrist plucking the air.    clumsy as i am, the ball finds its way into my hands, warm as an apology. i stumble  forward, inelegant, lacking proper footwear and disposition. i’m no good at entering,  but i do what i must. his sweaty matted head. the shirt stained through  with a laborious give. i leap as an act of faith, failing honestly,  and then he is showing me the correct form to take, hands in front, never passing  behind the shoulder. and it is here that i spoil it, a joke about “faggot” and my urge   to throw back the wrist as far as it will go, as if my body were its own sport,  my own foolproof maneuver. as a means to rebuild the moment, i attempt   a faulty replication, but the ball smacks the rim and stumbles off, embarrassed.  so then we sit in the grass and i clump blades into a useless death orb,  not yet thinking of my coming departure upstate, or his own across the country,  or how years will pass before a reunion presents itself. we talk about cher,   about the phrase “queer-coded.” about those who exists solely for us to regret.  talking shit. talking to continue with the other. and then the day is done.   we trudge towards the station that will pull me back into my life, into the many boxes in my living room full of clothes i don’t wear and books i won’t read. i know it’s the ego   who says i’m a fool to feel hurt, but when i bring myself look at him and embrace as friends do, a string snaps from the neck of my instrument. Good God, it whines.

i know. but sometimes there is love i don’t want to have language for.   sometimes all that is left from a day’s good work is the repeating fear of having said  too much, of drawing out the same joke to a point where the mouth won’t give.   i amble down to the platform and stand near t


This poem is forthcoming from TRANZ (Four Way Books, 2024).

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