Poetry Daily: http://www.poems.com/

Next Door


Robbie Gross is dribbling, then fakes a shot, then takes it,
the metronome of his solo practice an accompaniment
so persistently tapping its foot in my days that, 4 a.m.,
forty years later, hearing a basketball tock
on the sidewalk below my window, I am returned
to my first room, separated by a mulberry tree
and hedges from where Robbie Gross is dribbling, then
fakes a shot, then takes it, the metronome so persistently
tapping its foot in my days that I knew we were keeping time
but what song was it during games with our older brothers
and after they left, shooting by himself, like the tree
alone falling, morning and long afternoon, through my
books, through all my ages—what song? I broke
the court's code and deciphered the slow dribble's: I'll.
Wait
. while the shooter sized up the competition or
focused his solitary mind, and then the bomb-fuse ticktickticktick
while he feinted right, moved left, setting up the shot
and the listener (not trying to listen) and then the blank
space of the arcing quiet as he shoots. That silence
is also like the space between the reader and the page,
the little nation between the writer's words and our
particular way of receiving them, or the blank station
we fill in between ourselves and passing strangers,
or between ourselves and people we presume to know,
but most achingly in the ones we try to know.
Then came my guess whether the shot went in, hit the rim or
bounced off the garage, because I had the misfortune
of growing up next-door friends with the pudgy Rob Gross
who became the most handsome Robbie, growing taut
and sly for having played from the outside line for so long
and by his last June when the beautiful Margie Harmelin
rode over from her neighborhood and lay her bicycle
on its side before they both went indoors, by then
he only caught my eye with reticence, a muffled kindness
passing to me from under his shaggy bangs,
nearly embarrassed for me, as I now understand it,
because he was bluff enough to know what he had become
to any young woman, and what I was becoming in my
blank space, my window, like this one from which I just
heard Robbie Gross take a shot, from which I just
dreamed hearing the song the world called "Don't. Wait."


Jessica Greenbaum

The Two Yvonnes
Princeton University Press


To view this poem online, visit the Poetry Daily archive at http://www.poems.com/archive.php
View a large-print version of this poem