When My Father Hits a Crosscourt Forehand

by Sean Beckford
the clay sifts into my shoes and
stains my leg hairs
When he sends a challenge, caressed toward me
                                        I extend my frame
bumping up against the shadows of the white ash trees
             crisscrossing the doubles alley
That evening dust lines his brow, the borders of his pockets,
curls under the bathroom door with his sandalwood aftershave
Sometimes I'd press my face
                 into the Jamaican crossed square of silk
he'd pat his hair with each morning
Sometimes I'd watch in the doorway as he slicked
                                        vaseline onto his hair shins
When he'd leave, I'd drag a thumbnail down my shin,
                 dip a finger into the jelly,
and wonder, what it was like for him to drag
his wet, seizing torso, across the linoleum,
the uneven floorboards, the wool guestroom carpet
pull the coffee table down onto his chest
and call my mother.