Vol. 2, No. 1: "Drop Shot Valley" photo

PickleballKT Herr

It might be strange—I want to say it is

strange, the acrobatics a mind makes of memory

to grope at a shy feeling. Four men

are playing pickleball in the rain, after dark,

behind the bar I’m leaving. I see them

from far off, my eye strung through lunges

under yellow lights. I know without having

to approach—their taut chests; breath not quite

fogging air; the not-quite-cold

of the rain—how their hot skin burns

through wet cotton. Look how my body

shrinks against imaginary lust, wishing to pinch

hit for intimacy. Forgive this mix

of metaphors, of feelings. I don’t want to grip

a bicep or lick sweat from thick curls. When a ball

falls short, they say it’s in the kitchen. & I know

what that’s about, whiskey-whipped & single.

                                    I know, too,

what my mother would say

if she were here: Kate, you should ask

if they need someone to play in. Her utterance

a bright racket of lacerating care. My hips

rotund & low-slung as ever under laceless

underwear. & if I were braver I’d say

Ma, I’ve always been played in. I’d say

Ma, I’m tired of being the someone

everyone wants to play in.