Will Jeffreys

we walk over to the courts by the flats. Mindful of comments about how I have been when trying to “encourage” better football, I offer nothing other than the chance to shoot hoops with some light celebration when it goes in. And then they try and steal the ball from me. So I start bouncing it between my legs, holding them off, and dribbling round the court before a lay up and a basket. As I turn round, I see one of them is on the floor claiming a foul and the other has had my watch scrape their gut. I assume that this would be the time to slink back home, but we’re off and running as they try to snatch it off me again.

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through the trees a field. A broad, sloping hedged field empty save for a woman, two small children and a dog far away at the top of the rise. Denim specks with blonde hair and a white frantic blot, bothering and bothered. Through their example I let the dog lead slip through my fingers allowing her to trot along as my feet shush and slice through the grass. Straggling clouds break the sunshine as we climb to the top of the treeline and a scrubby path leads on invitingly. I look at my watch and decide to head back. The wind rises and trees bow, shake. The dog and I stand so still the warm sounds of leaf ripple and green grass waves are all we hear. Something opens in my chest and I feel lighter.

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I try not to ask
will this be the last time?
The final afternoon where we walk along, holding hands
The last party, where we stay longer than planned
And you sit on my lap,
our arms tightly wrapped
my head on your shoulder

The final summer barbecue
Where you on some internal cue
are suddenly naked and
without clothes or shame or care
do whatever you want to do.
But as you get older.
I don’t want to ask
If this is the ultimate, the very last, the final night
For then I might hold on too tight
Attempt to grasp
And lose sight
of the next thing you will become

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The mourning for summer begins today. It’s all downhill to fleeting daylight. We should mark it this year, we say. Burning fires and dancing naked. But we don’t. Instead, I stare at the yellow bleeding blue; the brightest part of the sky, mentally erasing the flats, and brush my teeth.

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It’s not easy teaching your kids to play tennis. Things that you find easy and automatic are more difficult to teach. Body position. Racquet position. Helping them not to hit themselves in the leg or their sister in the neck with a ball. Holding attention so the highly inappropriate hip hop lyrics that drift over from the basketball courts packed full of lanky, floppy haired, teenagers draped in NBA jerseys don’t infect your child’s mind. The lyrics seem way more woman hating than you remember, and you make a mental note to review your hiphop intake as you gently plop a ball over the net that, wonderfully, gets returned.

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Every time there’s a no
When things come up, and you’d rather not go
Content at home
On your own
Consoled by the console, burrowed in a game
when even the sound of your name
can’t penetrate.
And being outside is so much harder than stopping,
sofa-flopping, channel-hopping
A piece of me retracts, reacts,
the instinct to push and prod, improve, drive,
cajole you to seize, drag you to thrive
before it strikes me
you are exactly how I used to be

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