Did you hear that tommy stokes died?
my sister asks at the end of her daily email.
They say he was just a drunk living
all by himself in that old house
he grew up in. He’d been dead for days
before somebody found him.
I look up from my laptop, think about
the high school gym forty years ago
packed on winter nights with screaming
teenagers, the whirl of school colors,
bouncing cheerleaders, and the the hard squeak
of hi-top Converse sneakers. How still and quiet
that all became when Tommy Stokes shot
the ball – gently, rotating almost lazily slow,
arcing up while everyone held their breath,
then down through the rim jerking the net hard,
igniting the stomp and thunder of the crowd.
I get up for more coffee, remember
that he was also kind of a big asshole.
He would never say hi to me in the hallway,
act angry if he had to choose me for his team
in a pick up game, yell at me from half court
for not playing defense. Then I think that, hell,
I never even made the varsity, not quick enough
for guard, too small for forward, mediocre shooter,
while Tommy Stokes always had a girlfriend,
his green letter jacket and his picture in the paper.
I pour yourself what little’s left in the pot,
wonder if the backboard still hangs on the garage
of the house where Tommy Stokes died all alone.
How He Is
How long are you going to stay this time?
his sister asks. She’s unpacking groceries,
he’s sitting at the table. Well, he answers,
I’d like to stay maybe through Thanksgiving.
Oh, she says, her voice trailing off and she stopped
just for a moment before putting the milk
in the fridge. You know, she sighs as if
suddenly the milk has become too heavy
to carry, your being here doesn’t make it
any easier for me and Eddie, and God knows
we don’t get along too great these days.
You know how he is. Yeah, he mumbles,
that’s pretty clear. Eddie says, she continues
as she walks back toward the sink, if you
hadn’t quit your job all of a sudden like that,
then maybe Karen wouldn’t have kicked you out
and you wouldn’t be in this mess you’re in today.
Yeah, he repeats, starts drumming his fingers
on the plastic placemat in front of him. If it were up
to me, she , you know you’d be welcome to stay
as long as you want, but all he heard was the whir
of the dryer coming from the laundry room
as he stared straight at the autumn light dying
softly through the kitchen window.
In Cana Of Galilee
What idiot wedding planner got paid
to put on the wedding in Cana of Galilee
when they ran out of wine at the reception?
Sure, the flowers at the church looked good,
and the VFW Hall was decorated real nice.
Most people thought the chicken and rice
they served for dinner wasn’t too dry,
and the band played just enough slow ones
to keep the crotch-grinding teenagers
and the old white guys happy out on
the dance floor. The best man’s toast
didn’t make all the old ladies blush,
but it’s a miracle that nobody’s ass was fired
that day for not having nearly enough booze
on hand at an open bar. Somebody sure was lucky
that Jesus, the one guy in the whole wide world
who could turn water into wine, was sitting right there
at the table for single people, banging his spoon
against his champagne glass and trying to drink enough
to get up the courage to ask Tiffany Greenberg,
the slutty looking bridesmaid in from south Jersey
for the wedding, to dance. By the time everyone looked
around to thank him, he and Tiffany were already headed
back to her room at the Red Roof Inn down the road.
They stopped at 7-11 for a cold 6-pack and condoms;
still new at miracles, Jesus didn’t want to press his luck.