Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

The Vortex

Walking With Jake at Twilight

We walk beneath the dreams
Of ash trees that line our street,
Each tree oblivious to
An armada of ash borers
Forty-five miles to the east.

Brown bats that live
In the column of our deck
unwrap their wings
As they exit their nest.
Toward midnight
Great horned owls
Will be calling across roof tops.

The constellations begin
Their nightly swirl above us.
It is too soon for crickets.
Too soon for the ashes to leaf.
The only thing blooming:
Three daffodils
Waiting for a table.

Jake is earnest as thief
About this walk
That will not be complete
Without seeing a rabbit
Eating the early shoots
Of spring.

He lifts his right paw
And locks on his target.
Eventually I see
A soft, ragged form
Near the safety of a drain pipe
That flattens itself
In winter’s detritus.

Jake strains at the leash.
With each second he leans
Into air that smells of rabbit,
Then looks at me
as if he could speak:
It is so close.
Don’t you see it?

I do see it, but
I tell him to Let it go.
I understand his yearning
For the hunt and the mysterious,
But for a second time I say,
Let it go Jake,
As if to remind us both
That we are tethered
To something beyond our reach.

–Terry Pettit

On The Eve Of The Ryder Cup, 2010

We are sitting at the bar at Oskar Blues off the diagonal in Longmont, Colorado after watching our daughter’s team play a volleyball match in Boulder, where the linesmen were barefoot and the locals were more interested in the five-piece band than the score. Anne is sipping water with lemon while I am drinking a stout thicker than roast beef that tastes like licorice.

Next to us three men in their fifties are talking about the courses they’ve played. Nancy Grant, a former player of mine at Nebraska, once told me that only thing that was a bigger waste of time than the four hours men spend on a golf course is the time men spend talking about golf after the round, and in particular the shots they could have made but didn’t. Her husband, Mike, is an avid golfer. I completely understand what she meant and I am guilty on all counts.

On the television above the bar three Golf Channel jockeys are in animated conversation about the four-ball pairings in tomorrow’s Ryder Cup matches, which are not named after the truck rental company, but an English seed salesman who first proposed competition between English and American golfers in 1925. In recent years Europe has replaced England because through the middle third of the last century Great Britain began to be not so competitive in a lot of things, among them the Ryder Cup. I always have difficulty getting “up” for a continent.

It is hard for me to get patriotic about the Ryder Cup because 90% of the professional golfers on both teams live in Florida, do not pay state taxes, have beautiful wives (in some cases multiple lovers) who drive BMWs on their way to Whole Foods and Sax 5th Avenue. Having said that, I will watch because I am fascinated with how athletes handle pressure, although it would be much more entertaining if each competitor put up twenty percent of his own yearly income, winner take all.

Later this week I will play in one of the thousands of Ryder Cup spinoffs that take place around the country pitting local clubs against each other. I was the 24th and last man selected for the Mariana Butte Team (a mountain course in Loveland, Colorado) that will compete against 24 golfers from the Olde Course, which sits on flat land in the center of town.

Selected is perhaps too strong a word. For the second year in a row, I will be one of the oldest competitors on either team, making the Mariana Butte team this year by the skin of my teeth, by  finishing with a net 70 in the club championship when several younger golfers allowed their minds to drift to the Broncos, the Rockies, families or fixing the leaf blower. God, how I love to compete. At 64 the opportunities are getting fewer and fewer.

After we finish our meal we get in our car and begin the short journey back to home, Anne happy that we stopped and sat and talked, me with the lingering taste of molasses from the home brewed stout, and I am reminded of the sweet contentment of the children’s book written by Margaret Wise Brown which I read to both our daughters before they grew up into the world of volleyball, SATs, college degrees and marriage. I shall paraphrase here:

Good night moon.

Good night to the three men talking

Swing paths in the Oskar Blues Bar.

Good night to the spaces between the stars.

Good night Anne, Katherine and  Emma

And facebook acquaintances wherever you are.

Good night to garish sweaters and and large white belts.

Good night to my father who turned 89 this week,

Who made my first golf club on a wooden lathe,

May he continue to dream of hickory shafted drivers,

Of walking from the the green to the next tee,

Of mashies, niblicks, spoons and cleeks.

A Brief Encounter at Dillards

Sometimes I see a man in a glance
Into the glass of a storefront,
And for a few seconds think
I know him,
At least below the waist.
Those are legs that allowed him to the grab the rim,
And kick a soccer ball across the street
Into the Clifton place
Where afternoons were spent in
A continuous scrum of football,
Fist fights, mush ball and yelping.
The posture, however,
A bent spoon by a coffee cup,
The belly, the inflated face,
Is a stranger beyond a
The vague recollection
Of neighborhood men coming home at dusk,
Carrying lunch buckets with one hand
While bending to retrieve with the other,
The Gary Post Tribune
Crouching like a rabbit between the porch and the shrubs.

After The Loss

From Talent and The Secret Life of Teams

They consider my voice
An inappropriate companion
To the pounding of their blood,
Hot with fatigue and disappointment.

Their heads are bent
Like a ficus toward light.
But there is no light,
Instead they wait
For the practiced words
That huddle in my brain,
Pocket change from losing.

And I know that I cannot reach
Them with words.

And so we breathe in silence,
A conspiracy of players and coaches
Reassured by rhythmic heaving
Of spent muscle, flesh and synapse.

Each letting go reminds us:

We were prepared.There was opportunity.
We could have won.

These unspoken truths are
What we take with us.
That, and this solitude,
This beautiful, tired breathing.

Walking Toward Dusk On the Back Nine At South Ridge Greens


Brown mulch gathers at the bottom of Fossil Creek
As it ribbons across the eleventh fairway
Where cottonwood leaves settle into the bottom
Of the burn like abandoned swing thoughts.

I am walking the course backwards
Hitting lost balls with a mashie-niblick
Watching our rescued golden retriever
Scurry back and forth from the marsh to fairway.

Golfers in groups of twos and threes,
Windbreakers wrapped to their waist
Pull trolleys with nine to fifteen clubs.
Golf in November is not about scoring.

No one offers advice.
No one is looking to shoot a career round.
The backlit sky is soft on the horizon
Like the pause in my father’s backswing.

Ben brings me a like new Titleist
He finds in the plum bushes
And then watches as I swing for the click
That comes from a well-hit shot.

The ball sails over the railroad trestle
into a wilderness without bunkers,
Or manicured bluegrass,
Out among coyote scat and bull snakes.

Far out on the seventeenth hole
A singleton in woolen cap
Is swinging a midiron back and forth
Walking his way home in rhythm
As twilight brushes his silhouette
I think of St. Andrews, Carnouste and Royal Dornoch,
The unyielding desperation of the Highlands
Where a herder with a staff and a small flock
Lofts stones toward a place in the dark.