944: Sonnet written walking under the mess some magnolia made

944: Sonnet written walking under the mess some magnolia made

944: Sonnet written walking under the mess some magnolia made


I’m Shira Erlichman and this is The Slowdown.

When it comes out in conversation that I grew up playing soccer, the exchange usually goes something like this: the other person––maybe a former athlete, maybe not––smiles, we salute the developmental merit of team sports, guess field positions, ponder the multiverse where I played in college instead of choosing to follow art-making, ask if the other still plays pick-up, and so on, until the topic fizzles.

But the polite banter never seems to properly reflect the parade detonating inside my body. Massive sky-touching balloons; intricate floats; and at least fifteen marching bands with trumpets raised in harmony. I’m a woman in love. And a woman in love doesn’t just love the game, she loves the details, the private moments, and what happens off the field as much as on.

As we chat, I am transported; my mind is flooded with rain––rain so total that it is a sheet of wet and I can feel my uniform stuck to me as a second skin, can feel how the field became precarious beneath my cleats––gritty, sopping, torn. I can feel the ghost of an elbow to my throat, or how I rolled six times when shoved, then shot up to recapture the ball, my ball.

And post-game––the shower’s rejuvenating heat, my muscular and bone-deep ache, the sweet relief of being out of the cold and out of motion. My archipelago of bruises, the clumps of grass falling from my hair, ninety minutes of dirt spooling in the drain. I was ruined. Happily. I was cocooned in that nasty, perfect state of having spent my body on a blurring patch of earth, among other players.

To the inquiring acquaintance who asks, “You played?” I mention, Ten years. All four seasons. Indoor. Outdoor. My left knee will never be the same, my hip’s a mess, even my jaw––etc. But sometimes, what I really want to say is: I still have dreams that I’m mid-air, kicking, the ball arcs perfectly past the goalie’s fingertips, and as I turn to face my teammates, my chest fills with the uncountable blossoms of an explosive spring.

Today’s poem understands not just the bloom of romantic love, but the rot and mess and grit that’s just as worthy of our praise, of the glorious spending of our hearts.

Sonnet written walking under the mess some magnolia made
by Jay Deshpande

Even with my nose up here at six foot something I know
The color brown is sweet: this putrescence 
Embarrasses no one: the petals treacly vessels jangling
Overhead yesterday have taken a hint and gone down into
The real grit of things: where better than the sidewalk
To speak achingly: I could go on: I’d say love makes us
Amenable to certain minor probable disasters: but what
I mean by love is spring: overeager and almost enough 
To make me wake up and like the insides of my mouth
A little more: the petals talking vivid now: they say
Finish your work and come back to us: we want to be 
Nearest: we know which of our atoms were once in you: you
Who are a flower-machine: who are a blossom for meaning:
The scent of sweeter senders: the slobberiest part of the kiss:

"Sonnet written walking under the mess some magnolia made" by Jay Deshpande. Used by permission of the poet.