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Young as we were, our contests
went to the edge of the known world.
There we did not trip and tumble
from hard court to abyss,
but found the earth to be a globe
any boy agile at tennis
might navigate and hold.
On courts fenced by wire and spruce
behind the gabled house
we volleyed back and forth;
all summer we took our sides--
glare of sun or bruise of shade--
tight-strung rackets raised, on guard
for what came our way.
Dressed in the same clean white
that set out of bounds in paint,
the lanky boy opposite,
hit with ease the fast ones I slammed
across the court to him
till sunlight came slant at last.
He was the foe-in-friend
we would not permit to win
by missing an easy lob
or staggering where we stood;
though after add-ins, score in,
we liked to see whoever won
shake a sweaty palm and grin.
Oh, we all exalted in winning!
Each of us felt a keen chagrin
contemplating a loss;
each knew quite well which side was his,
wanting the impossible--
the contest our manifesto
recited in the muscle.
Take the Cake
Land O Lakes and the sugar cream
under the beater's whirring blades.
Furiously I whip them,
and fold in the cool-lava eggs.
White caps in the enamel bowl
fluffy in a batter smelly
with vanilla--all this I pour
in the Bundt flutes Crisco-shiny,
and slip into the hot oven.
Come now, peer in with me, and see
the blonde batter rising golden,
and as we watch--sinking sinking.
I so wanted that high, light cake,
airy and sweet, not this, cooling
festively as if to placate
with gaudy birthday icing--
a cake fallen flat.
I so wanted light confection,
not this shrunken slab,
with its deathly scent of lemon.
What use now my dreams of lightness,
and sweet cakes of airy panache?
Ablaze in the icing, a crush
of candles, all sulfur and ash.