No Age Cafe


Handball, West 4th Street

for Alan


Playground, cement wall,

warm day,

men & women crowded against

a chain link fence, watching

three Latinos and a white guy

between gray lines.

Big men.

Gold jewelry, shorts, cut-off T-shirts;

one slighter, bare chested, long arms.

White guy: beefy, no neck, broad

rubbery shoulders.

“C’mon Ricky!” The one with skin like

glistening walnut goes still, crouches,

serves deep.

The white guy returns, fast off the wall,

picked clean in the air by Ricky’s partner,

exploding back, smashed, grunt, ball wide—

point, Ricky’s team.


“C’mon, go crazy, Ricky!”

“Another comeback,” somebody says.


Ricky serves—players shift, both hands

left, right, left, like heavyweights,

sickeningly hard. White guy’s partner

hits low to the corner; Superman

couldn’t have gotten to it.

Heads shake, drink from bottles.

Ricky closes on his partner, directs him,

slaps his arm.

“17-15,” the ref says, thin, older,

face impassive under a baseball hat.

He squeezes the blue ball,

throws it twice easily against the wall,

checks it again, tosses it to the white guy.

No one talks.


Serve goes to Ricky, hit back at white guy

too fast to see, let alone dodge. White guy pivots

like a bullfighter, somehow blocks it soft and low.

Ricky’s partner goes slow motion

full length on the cement, can’t reach it.

“18-15.”

White guy sneers, serves fast at Ricky,

challenging. Ricky drops it to the other guy.

Weak return. Ricky’s partner puts it away.

Back and forth.

Ricky hits a winner, exhales, pounds

his chest three times with the ball,

looks up at a cloudy sky,

then ties, 20 all, with a lucky bounce.

“Only fucking way you win,” white guy shouts.

“Ricky don’t speak English,” a watcher calls out.

Ricky walks a tight circle, small smile,

let him talk, give the man something.

Lethal blur, percussion, shoes squeak,

over suddenly. Ricky’s team wins.

He pumps one arm.

No taunts. No regret.

People nod, satisfied.

Faces shine.


New York

(from: On The Road To Dharamsala)
John Moncure Wetterau

No Age Cafe