Badminton and the Seven Deadly Sins

We play on burdock, field daisies, hollows
and the elbows of stones.
My greed to win
surprises me. Not only do you want to win
but to keep me from getting any points.
Sometimes I even forget how to serve.
Do you hold the feathers
or toss them?
Swing from the side or under?
The agony of failing to do
what you know you can. What used to be easy
until you thought about it.
Sometimes there’s nothing to be done
but wait for whatever you’ve lost to return.
Just a game, where two souls
hit a handful of feathers
with tautly strung rackets,
back and forth across a net.

Wind makes you aim past
where you want to be. Run
where you think each gust will blow.
Consider, then compensate,
for forces beyond your control You learn
to ride thermals like a hawk. Restrain
yourself on one side, hit hard as you can
from the other.

You envy the wind’s seeming
to come and go as it pleases.
And just when you think you’ve got it
all figured, wind dies,
intention goes wild.

You embrace sloth,
that porcupine languor.
Amble into dusk, bristles
flattened, tail dragging watch desire
drop from the sky.

Lust wouldn’t be too strong a word
for the way toes want
to be freed and heels
to kick.
They’re gluttons
for the slither of green, the warm tops
of stones. You think all we have to do
is dig clay, pick stones, level ground, seed
tough grasses. Water, weed, and wait.
But by the time the snows come
anger has descended, a bird
without wings, filling our mouths and hands.

Don’t know what to do
with mine. It almost crashes
cars and silences the phone.
It has no feathers, dismembers
alive. The grass thickens without you.
We play a new game called separation.
We make up the rules as we go.
It lasts twenty-four seven.
We study sins, first
each other’s greedy
with anger, then
reluctantly, our own.

Where does the hurt go, except
into bodies, notebooks and bottles? Somehow
we find the nerve to play again.
Not sure how. Needed
more than love. More
than understanding. More than forgiveness.
More than we knew how to say.
You sprayed the lines, set the net forehead high.
We took our shoes and socks off.
You were much heavier. I saw your chin
for the first time in twenty years. I was stiffer,
grayer. The grass was tickled.

We played with the sun
in our eyes,
in rain, hail, cold, and heat.
We played at dawn as the sun threw beams
on the smell of leaves falling.
Both moon and sun in the sky. Cumulus
crisped with light.

We played strip badminton. I hoped breasts
would distract you, but I was the one
who doubled over laughing at their flounce.
A turkey vulture swept low over our heads.
We stood still until it disappeared. A crow
streaked from cedar to maple. Fat cigar
with wings. Sheep announced themselves.
thunder, then two drops of rain.

Drawn lines fade, become less necessary.
One red leaf startles the grass. We play
for rays of light, laughter, the sighting
of feathers. Reaching, missing.
As feathers begin
their slow, slow descent, I swing hard,
cocky, I’m five points ahead.
They land undisturbed at my feet. Again
I have missed the obvious. At other times
you do the almost impossible.
Reach farther
than I thought you could.

are often better than calculated shots.
Too much thinking gets in the way. Not enough
thinking also. So easily distracted
by a goose or pride
honking the way. The score: me seven,
you fifteen, crows three. A spin
of feathers nudges the sky.
Tired of running, we let go whatever
is out of bounds. Swatting, leaping,
picking up plumage. Notice
how sparrows huddle the trees.
How toes, knees,
love, elbows and joy depend not
on what happens, but on gratitude.

That ability to go beyond drawn lines,
stakes and netting, the shadows
of crows and into
each other’s arms.

You press me like bellows.
Breathe out, you say, breathe in.

published 2004

publisher BuschekBooks

category The Thing with Feathers

Full list of Poems


Like a River Flows



< >


An Offering

Controlled Burn

No Need

April Addictions

Some Functions of Poetry

Some Functions of Snow

Digging Out

My Sweet Love


Have you started your seeds yet?

Palmer Rapids



The Thing with Feathers

Hope Rides High

Badminton and the Seven Deadly Sins

Ode to Milk

Said the River – One

Apologies 1

Left over Papadoms

Grocery Store Tulips (two versions)


First Smiles


Elegant Death


When you Love

I Wanna Fly