Community Feeling

by Lesley Wheeler

                If you attend the game just once in a while,
you don’t know where to set your chair. Lately,
                by which I mean for years, all ordinary
talk is strained, a habit maintained in faith
                that artlessness exists. The other parents
are nice, but from me, that sounds like mockery.
                The violet I pick from the grass is an embarrassed
violet. Mosquitoes conduct bloodwork.
                The air a rippled pond, cheers intersecting.

On the field, a flock and heretics:
                a scrum around the edge of the box, and one
boy walking backwards toward the goal, and one
                girl willing the ball to leap toward her, there
on the edge of belief. Don’t think of communication
                as transmission, a spatial relay of messages,
but as ritual, a ceremony uniting
                the twilight congregation. Home shirts shine.

My clapping is confused. I don’t know
                the rules, when to call out and how that pulls
at the net inside the child, puts pride in his limp.
                In a poem’s meadow, though, words go to seed.
Listen: the neighbors shout on my behalf,
                and then turn to me and smile. They can think
whatever they think; it’s probably kind.
                I’m their welcome interloper. You
be mine. Just wipe that gnat from your eye and sit
                down here. I can act like a normal person
while you stroke my imaginary dog.
                His fur is so soft and he really likes you.

LESLEY WHEELER’s forthcoming books are the poetry collection The State She’s In, the novel Unbecoming, and the essay collection Poetry’s Possible Worlds; previous poetry books are Radioland and the chapbook Propagation. Her work appears in Ecotone, Beloit Poetry Journal, Crab Orchard Review, and other magazines. Poetry Editor of Shenandoah, she lives in Virginia.