Playing Basketball with Vietnam Veterans
in the Village Right Before Independence Day
Lord, our joints do creak, but our 12 to 15 foot jump shots remain deadly accurate.
Ballers—it’s in the blood and if our moves can no longer be characterized as
French pastry, there’s enough jellyroll left to raise a few eyebrows. We play until
it’s too dark to continue and tramp to the nearest Irish bar, rough looking on
the inside yet occupied by gentle men. I enjoy hearing my compatriots spin their
adventures, particularly as it pertains to the Mekong, maybe because my 349 draft
number—the only lottery I’ve ever won—assured there would be no rice paddies
for me back then. “I forgive you,” one of the guys says, “for setting that screen that
put me on my ass.” “Yeah,” I say, “I’m usually a lover, not a fighter.” Another says
“We should drink to that” and we lift our beer glasses and toast love, love,love,
our gray, our white hair glowing a light blond in the cheap yellow of the strobe
Tim Suermondt is the author of five full-length collections of poems, the latest JOSEPHINE BAKER SWIMMING POOL from MadHat Press, 2019. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Stand Magazine, december magazine, and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.