On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Seville. 

On an overcast morning in New York. 

Sometime past midnight in Tokyo. 

This is how you live now. 

This is how you have lived 

For nearly half your life.

You’re in one place, playing a game, 

Which is to say doing your job. 

You’re in one place and you’re in all possible places. 

The shorn-smooth grass you walk on—

You mostly walk, like a painter 

Wandering a meadow—

Is black ice for the rest of us. 

We are infected by data. 

We watch you in the simulacrum. 

We love you because the simulacrum 

Tells us to love you. We hate you because 

The simulacrum tells us to hate you.  

Some of us have no interest in you at all, 

But the simulacrum makes sure 

We know who you are. 

We all see you. You’re standing in one place:

You tend to do this, just take up space someplace and wait.

Your name is stamped between your shoulder blades. 

You turn your back on all of us

And it’s like your name itself calls for the ball. 

And it, too, knows who you are

As you balance in this field of the lord and focus

Because what you’re about to do has no name.

How many years ago was it? 

You were an anonymous kid 

Sipping an Aquarius in front of the convenience store,

Some spot like a Spar or 7-Eleven called OpenCor. 

You were the flea sticking his head out from the passenger’s side

Of his cousin’s jalopy as it wheezed its way up Carles III. 

You were one of the last child prodigies 

Before the simulacrum turned prodigies 

Into humorless, practiced celebrities. 

The last seasons of no internet at home

And a chocolate croissant with the sports papers 

And the team training a block up the street. 

Day after day, I’d see you on that corner

Slowly sipping the same soft drink day after day, 

A kid bored out of his mind, and for that brief 

Moment in time,

The proud owner of a street corner in Barcelona. 

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Seville, 

On an overcast morning in New York, 

Sometime past midnight in Tokyo, 

Your teammates seem filed down to the marrow,

Jaded, wading through the long year, dulled

By pains or rust or existential crises,

Men of unfathomable wealth running around 

In shorts and feeling the weight of the world

Hovering over them with terrifying delight.

And then you give the ball away. 

You give the ball away, which is like giving away 

Your mother. You gave the ball away trying something 

Mundanely special that didn’t work out 

And there went the ball, the other team took it, 

Ran away with it, and now you’re losing.

A minute passes. Another. It’s an overcast

Morning in New York. A Saturday afternoon 

In Seville. And if you lose nothing really changes. 

The reporters will dust off their stories about crisis, 

Rub out a malicious rumor or two, ask the same questions 

They asked a week ago, everyone in line 

Because that’s how their food arrives on the table. 

More minutes pass. You’re losing. You’re losing.

Everything is fine, but you’re losing.

You’re losing and walking and walking. You’re losing

And everyone is running by you.

Everyone is running but you. You’re not

Even walking now. You just stand there. A vision.

You imagine someone standing to your left, 

The length of a blue whale away from you. 

There’s a ball at his feet. And free to muse 

For a moment, he sees you flickering among 

A sea of hostile white shirts like the sun parting clouds. 

You’re surrounded by five sets of pumping arms, 

Legs, heaving chests, panic. You simply stand there.

From their lifetimes of amateur mind reading 

They think they know what your teammate 

Wants to happen. They spy both of you.

They know you. And they think they see you.

You’re simply standing there, out on a corner of the action.

But you’re invisible to them like a god

And powerful to them like a god; they can feel

The heat when you part the air with a glance. 

So they think they know where you are.

They think they see you in the spirit of the grass. 

There’s a man standing to your left,

The width of a rainbow away from you. 

You’re standing in negative space now: there are 

Three men in front of you, trying to eye you 

While spiking themselves into the ground. 

There are two more men on either side of you. 

Another, in orange, the tallest one of them all,

Stands as wide as he can in the mouth of the goal 

Waving his arms like he’s trying to scare away a bear. 

You’re accounted for by all of them. 
You’re in a place where you can do them no harm. 

The only way the ball can arrive to you 

Is hours later in a hospital, that prophecy 

Of dislocations, broken legs, concussions. 

And yet, as all things within the sight of Jupiter 

Belong to Jupiter, the ball arrives to you. 

When does a habit become a fact? When the ball 

Arrives to you. You swing your left foot

Waist-high to meet it. And the ball meets the high corner 

Of the goal. The legend of the impossible goal 

Is far more plausible, more reasonable than this goal.

You celebrate it as though you now know, 

Or suddenly have remembered, that there are no limits 

To you. So you do it again, this time with your other foot. 

Towards the other high corner of the goal.

Send the ball so softly there it wouldn’t break an egg 

If one were dangled there. You’d score one more

And assist a fourth. Just another day for you,

Saving another day in your way,

Sending the inner child home happy or distraught

But whether in one state or the other, still amazed. 

Didn’t we talk about this 

That day we both decided it was ridiculous

Not to move on from our daily nod,

Like daily bread, and say something instead, 

An hola qué tal that I maybe took too far

When I came close to you, the width of a whisper, to tell you about the dream I had

That happens light-years in the future

When you score three of the greatest goals 

Anyone will ever see, and we all just move on, 

As though bored by it all by then, or spoiled, 

Like when the greatest love

You’ll ever have begins to blend with the paint,

And that feeling, how it won’t have been the first time,

And that feeling, how it won’t yet be the last time, 

Not yet, the last time coming 

Some other day in a numb malaise of Burofaxes before the tears, 

Which is why I felt the need to tell you,

There and then, or here and now,

Before any of it happened, or after it all, that...

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Autumn 2023

Issue 106

The Autumn 2023 issue includes four new poems by featured author Michael Hofmann, as well as new work by Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Monica Youn, Luke Kennard, Glyn Maxwell, Cindy Juyoung Ok, Jesse Nathan, and leena aboutaleb. Also in the issue are poems originally written in Arabic, Czech, Greek, Nüshu, and Spanish, among which a long-awaited fresh take on ‘The Hanging Poem of Imru al-Qays’ by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and five new poems by Homero Aridjis as translated by Forrest Gander. This bumper issue also introduces an expanded offering of prose with Dan O’Brien on the defiant and redemptive power of confessional writing and Rachel Hadas on translating Ovid and finding comfort in a world plagued by apathy and disaster. Our interviews section sees Kostya Tsolakis in conversation with Harris Otabasis and Nikolas Koutsodontis, the editors of the Anthology of Greek Queer Poetry, while Sohini Basak interviews Meena Kandasamy. The reviews section sports criticism by Tarn MacArthur, Aliyah Begum, Lily McDermott, and Tristram Fane Saunders.
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