back ~ home ~ up ~ next




Free Time


Their shrieks careening dizzily between

Delight and outrage, the students in the yard

Are playing hard,

Though they have little room and nothing green

In their asphalt pen.  Nothing but fences, bricks,

And at regulation height, a pair of hoops

From which gray loops

Vestigially descend.  With graceful flicks

And swoops they pass, block, feint and argue fouls,

And all the while the staccato, meaty thwack—

Now quick, now slack—

Thrums on, a backbeat to their cheers and howls.


Three stories up, on her habitual perch,

A black-and-white cat observes the scene,

Brushing the screen

With her whiskers, as intent on scan and search

As though the swirl below were birds or fish.

In the cacophony, it seems she hears

The singing spheres,

Each ear a separately tuning radar dish.


I join her at the window, and together

We watch the game until the tardy bell,

Whose clanging knell

Recalls them, some still wrangling over whether

The last shot counted.  In the sudden peace,

A handyman, belt slung with rules and hammers,

Appears and clambers

Onto the gym roof.  While a scrawl of geese

Ripples on windy gray in ragged flight,

He gathers up the balls that got away

And spent the day

Aimlessly free—red, orange, purple, white—

And punts them, in bright arcs, back into play.


Catherine Tufariello



From Free Time, Robert L. Barth, publisher, © 2001;
originally published in The Hudson Review.  Reprinted
by permission of the author.

Background by

back ~ home ~ up ~ next