Five then four for a ninety-second penalty
then five again down at the far end
then a hurricane of green and white
hurling this way with a pass a pivot
then what seems a pas de deux then
another pass as the puck whacks against
the see-through plastic barrier and there’s
the hawkeyed Griff modest (as always)
and steady as a chess knight skating back
back then floating sideways as the puck wheels
faster than my eyes can follow and now
he’s got it and he’s heading for their goalie
a kid so big so geared up with his blocker
in his right and his trapper in his left suited up
in his Hannibal Lector death-white face mask
so that you have to wonder how a puck slapped
even at a hundred miles an hour could ever
get past that dragon at the gate as one then two
blue blurs come closing in on him intent only
on stealing back that speck that priceless puck
at any cost as now the Griffer shifts then passes
then retrieves the spheroid thing as now
he feints off to the left then slams it there
yes there right there into the corner that
too late squeezes shut and bam!
like that it’s 1-0 and someone’s father
is banging on the plastic barrier as shouts
go roaring up from the metal bleachers
and Griffer’s grandpa’s going Woo hoo! before
he remembers to compose himself once more.

And with that the game goes on again
and soon the players morph into other kids
who look like Griff but with different strides
and numbers on their back as some skate out
though the team door and some skate in.
And soon the kids on the other team
do their quid pro quo to even up the score.

And so it goes, week in week out the winter
through, a sport you never thought to follow
until your grandson took it up, practicing it
even in his living room, where his parents
have let him set up a net on the ancient
wooden farmhouse floor into which he slams
the puck again and then again hour after hour
while good old Huddie shakes himself
then shuffles off into the other room, a game
where Griffin seems to know all the stats
and teams and players and even dreams about
in a world where grim opponents keep coming
for him, where he must somehow face
the white-masked monster and send the missive
he’s been charged with wheeling through.

From Ordinary Time (Slant Books, 2020) by Paul Mariani. Copyright © 2020 by Paul Mariani. Used with the permission of the author.