KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Poem: 345 words [R]

The Perfect Spiral

by Tim Hawkins

Throwing a football with my son 
who’s just getting old enough to catch and throw 
a tight spiral, in the gathering dusk, 
under a street lamp, hazy 
with the smoke of burning leaves, 
as the bone-chilling cold of late November 
collides with the pleasure of these things. 

I’m reminded of those same November evenings 
of my youth, when we played in such a fever 
that we could somehow see the ball 
long after dark, without feeling the cold, 
without hearing the voices 
that called us home to that other 
brightly-lit world of expectation. 

Tonight, a family of evangelical missionaries—
a father and mother, with two shivering 
ill-suited boys in tow, 
puts a temporary halt to our game, 
the father preaching gloomy, eternal life 
with an exhortation, a warning of sorts 
that I must be born again. 

For the sake of the boys, or perhaps 
because I already feel November-born again, 
I refrain from the easy sarcasm that 
has become my stock, first-down play. 
I long to show them, instead, the sacred gift 
of night vision, and the flashes of eternity 
that inhere like slow motion 
in a moment of artful concentration. 

I offer him my own invitation, of sorts, 
by tossing him the ball without a word. 
We could achieve miracles here in the dark, 
leading one another just enough 
out past the clothesline, making leaping grabs 
by feel, each a hero to our boys 
amid cheers and shouts echoing through the night, 
with no talk of damnation 
or angelic hosts on high. 

But he has become a man and 
has put away childish things, so he 
flips me the ball with a shake of the head, 
then leads the family away on their 
eternal rounds through the gloom, 
shivering and groping blindly toward the light. 

We, the damned, have slipped through their grasp 
and return easily to our perfect spirals 
and death-defying grabs, 
while ignoring the cold, 
and the dark, faceless silhouette 
that has magically appeared 
in a burst of light at the window 
to beckon us home for the night.


—Published previously in “How Divine (An Umbrella Special Feature),” Umbrella: A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose (Issue 6: Spring 2008); appears here with poet’s permission


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