She wondered how I did it, just walked up
and began playing basketball with a clutch
of kids in a strange city five hundred miles
from home on a station wagon vacation.
What my mother missed: my arms raised,
palms up and fingers spread, language
common to all courts: throw me the ball.
Somebody did. I took a shot. The game began.
Back on the road, she turned from the front seat
and looked at me. How scary that must have been,
her youngest child spurning shyness, opening up.
I thought about her today, the last of October,
her birthday. How she silently endured three sons.
Cards with witches: beneath the Happy
we’d X-out Halloween and scrawl Birthday.
Years later, an old man in Paris, I jog
onto a court in a park and open my arms.
A boy passes me the ball. I still love the feel
of pebbled leather. I loved my mother, too,
though she never opened her arms to me,
nor I to her.