What shift did God work
when he built this plant?
We are 3-11. Addictions
to math are common
as well as imagination-failure
for which no transplants exist.
Midnight smells like menthol cigarettes
and the dream of a woman awake
and waiting. When did God shower?
When did he drink beer?
How much bad TV could he stand?
Noon, I sit on the porch and listen
to the lack of traffic, the silent heat,
the tender hell of waiting.
Soccer Practice, 9/11/01, Pittsburgh
I turned off the TV. The coach,
I studied the list of phone numbers
but called no one.
I drove my son up the hill to the field.
Six kids showed, and we ran
the drills, ending with a scrimmage,
three on three, yellow pinnies
versus green (not necessary,
but the kids wanted them).
Afterward, I clutched my equipment bag
of balls, cones, pinnies, my whistle, a first aid kit
and carried it back to the car.
You might think I should’ve cancelled.
I felt. I felt. I felt.
I’ve deleted the word “like” three times so far:
In our league, we didn’t keep score,
though some of the kids did.
The teams were named by jersey color.
You could not cheer for your child.
Just Go Blue! or Go Maroon! We were Black.
The kids, seven and eight, laughed
and ran like colorful cartoon birds.
My assistant coach was from Serbia.
He kept score. He knew no other way.
If the world had better things to do, no one knew
what those things were. Or, at least, I didn’t.
I knew little about soccer: Spread out. Pass the ball.
The school president asked me to write a poem
for him to read at homecoming
for the families of alumni victims.
And I did. Knowing nothing of their grief.
Spread out. Pass the ball.
In Qatar, teaching at our new campus,
I took a mosque tour to learn a thing
or two. As I was leaving, the guide politely said
So you are from Pennsylvania.
We have heard, he said, the U. S., he said,
politely, staged that plane crash. Scattered
some debris. We were so far apart,
I stood sputtering in that wreckage.
I do not know what those children remember
of that day. My son remembers nothing.
He has been asked. They have all been asked.
Every kid got a trophy, no names on them.
The kind man had demonstrated ritual cleansing
in the mosque wash room, the poetry
of careful words, gestures. I should have taken
notes. I should have said/I mean/like.
He handed over my gift bag with a Koran
and other Islamic texts in English.
I had never held a paper bag so thick, so sturdy,
as if from a store only God could shop at.
We had just eaten a traditional meal, together,
with our hands, on the floor,
ripping meat from bones.
If you can tell me what I should have
told him, where I should have
begun, I will you tell you why
we held soccer practice
on that high hill overlooking our city.
Life gets away, and suddenly
that bomb shelter you planned to build
the supplies you planned to stockpile
the crack you planned to patch
the planned purge of your worldly possessions
the phone call you meant to return
the insult you meant to return
the dog you meant to love
the ant you meant to squash
all go by the wayside
but that date is destroyed
permanently on the calendar, torn out
and tossed, indecipherable instructions
Jim Daniels’ new book, Birth Marks, will be published by BOA Editions, in Fall, 2013. Recent books include Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry, Carnegie Mellon University Press, All of the Above, Adastra Press, and Trigger Man, short fiction, Michigan State University Press, all published in 2011.