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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 17, 2018.
About this Poem 

“‘The Home Team’ imagines an all-too possible world in which the super-human powers of children are the only thing that keep us going, that inspire us and make life worth living in spite of the fact that we cannot seem to provide anything of real value to those children. Our dreams for them are dashed, but their dreams cannot be. The poem celebrates the resilience and renewable resources our kids embody, written in a very bleak mood.”
—Brenda Shaughnessy

The Home Team

I liked Jane’s team. I’d bet money on them but it wasn’t that kind of thing. Too disorganized, plus it was just lunchtime pickup winterball with deflated goal bulbs and not enough of the good knee-gel to go around. The kids were tough. The kids goofed. Jane shone.

She worried that winter ball like a craft, then, like it was nothing, she’d plffft it dead center while everyone else looked sleepy, sidewise, a full surprise every time. Her main move always a low private conversation with the air. Then lightning knees you could never see.

The rest of the team shot sparks on occasion. Tella’s swift half-bank could rattle the shoulder of the thickest bulb-guard, and The Brain (a sticky girl in Advanced Graphmatics) had all the angles. We stood in the stands like snipers, trying to see what The Brain saw but never did till the fluke-score landed from outer space. Jane again, invisibly.

Some girls thought winter ball too mean-streaked, too psychic. My oldest daughter could hardly watch, preferring hockey. They shared a season so it was one or the other in our town. My younger daughter would rather ice-swim, but even in her ice-hole in the lake, her eyes followed Jane.

Our hearts were in Jane’s feet, her hands. All the bills we couldn’t pay, the wishing for electricity and lit-up screens of pleasure, the food gone rotten because no one could bring themselves to eat it—Jane gave us so many more chances to do it right this time.

We couldn’t give our kids the bountiful, bullet-proof homes we wanted, but we could insist on watching them try to win their childhoods back, inspecting their scraped knees before the raw red and pink dappled wounds turned burgundy, into crusts of edible leather.

Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Shaugnessy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Shaugnessy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Brenda Shaughnessy

Brenda Shaughnessy

Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan, in 1970 and grew up in Southern California. She is the author of So Much Synth (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) and The Octopus Museum, forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf in April 2019.

by this poet

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I don't like what the moon is supposed to do.
Confuse me, ovulate me,

spoon-feed me longing. A kind of ancient
date-rape drug. So I'll howl at you, moon,

I'm angry. I'll take back the night. Using me to
swoon at your questionable light,

you had me chasing you,
the world's worst lover, over and over

hoping
2
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Alarmed, today is a new dawn,
and that affair recurs daily like clockwork,

undone at dusk, when a new restaurant
emerges in the malnourished night.

We said it would be this way, once this became
the way it was. So in a way we were

waiting for it. I still haven’t eaten, says the cook

poem

Life, this charade of not-death.
Amnesiac of our nights together,

overheard talking in some other voice.
The great fruits of my failure:

silk milk pills with little bitter pits.
Who talks like that?  Says we are

ever-locked, leaving everything
petalled and veined the way nature

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