The morning air is all awash with angels . . . - Richard Wilbur The eyes open to a blue telephone In the bathroom of this five-star hotel. I wonder whom I should call? A plumber, Proctologist, urologist, or priest? Who is most among us and most deserves The first call? I choose my father because He's astounded by bathroom telephones. I dial home. My mother answers. "Hey, Ma, I say, "Can I talk to Poppa?" She gasps, And then I remember that my father Has been dead for nearly a year. "Shit, Mom," I say. "I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry— How did I forget?" "It’s okay," she says. "I made him a cup of instant coffee This morning and left it on the table— Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years— And I didn't realize my mistake Until this afternoon." My mother laughs At the angels who wait for us to pause During the most ordinary of days And sing our praise to forgetfulness Before they slap our souls with their cold wings. Those angels burden and unbalance us. Those fucking angels ride us piggyback. Those angels, forever falling, snare us And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.
When I was twelve, I shoplifted a pair
Of basketball shoes. We could not afford
Them otherwise. But when I tied them on,
I found that I couldn’t hit a shot.
When the ball clanked off the rim, I felt
Only guilt, guilt, guilt. O, immoral shoes!
O, kicks made of paranoia and rue!
Distraught but unwilling to get caught
Or confess, I threw those cursed Nikes
Into the river and hoped that was good
Enough for God. I played that season
In supermarket tennis shoes that felt
The same as playing in bare feet.
O, torn skin! O, bloody heels and toes!
O, twisted ankles! O, blisters the size
Of dimes and quarters! Finally, after
I couldn’t take the pain anymore, I told
My father what I had done. He wasn’t angry.
He wept out of shame. Then he cradled
And rocked me and called me his Little
Basketball Jesus. He told me that every cry
Of pain was part of the hoops sonata.
Then he laughed and bandaged my wounds—
My Indian Boy Poverty Basketball Stigmata.