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Long Beach, CA

The End of Our Arrangement

I enjoy this conspiracy of conversation, 
Everyone committed to not saying too many words, nor anything too deep,
It’s nice, the polite nods, and the way everyone speaks like dipping their toes in water, never jumping in

I detest small talk, but there are times when such trite niceties are fine, with no surprises to make us flinch 
Everyone on guard, best behavior, best face forward  
We, parents of tee-ballers, thrown together by happenstance—with babies born near the same time —we know how to put on the nice face

There are greater tribes, of course, bonded together by their love of Orcas and the need to save them
Or by God, 
Or worse, by darker powers,
But we share a bright glimmer of hope in our collective eye, the big world a pop fly to be caught by small hands 
Our hopes and dreams already handed off to their young and grasping grips, which we fit with gloves 
Hoping to give them the best chance
To catch the hard hops
To widen their stance and hit it hard as they can

All this longing which rends our souls in love
Is hidden beneath our conversation, all too holy to acknowledge here, a white glove you dare not brandish in a muddy land, nor with people you hardly know
So, we cover that inner fresco with nicely sanded wood, and lock the church doors for good measure 

We are each others’ captors for this hour, as we laugh at inane jokes between pitches,
though they aren’t funny 
A bit of Stockholm syndrome setting in

But then, half way through the 5th, the wings come off:
Someone makes a jibe about the President, and the man beside me blanches 
A bird lifts from the electric wire behind us, and flies away  
Blood boils and lions scramble as the circus tent comes down
Lovely in its catastrophe, the way the colors float and flit, 
And awful, too, for what’s been lost

A clown has pulled the very thread you do not touch, and it just keeps getting pulled from the great sleeve of awkwardness 
As we sit quietly
Until someone says, “Okay, Ben, give it a rip, give it a rip!” and we all clap, half-heartedly 

For more poetry, click here.