Tennis, Charley Genever


~ listen here ~

The floor is as grey as a pigeon
and Pasquale’s dad looks famous
dressed for Wimbledon
or an Andre Agassi fancy dress party
he of Ayers Rock calves and towelled wrist bands
he of buttered, toast grain stubble and tramline teeth
with the poise of a swordfish
he backhands a curveball past Pasquale
the graph paper fence makes a satisfying clink
as the ball makes contact.

I am six years old and I really need to wee
but I want to play tennis more so I hold it in.
Mum hands me a racket with a face longer than my trunk
and the trees cheer as I walk to the court
and I play well. Hit the ball ground to racket to ground to warm up
and it might as well be a jackhammer
with how fast I’m bouncing it. Serve like Serena
hit the ball meaner and meaner
and I know it’s only practise
but I want the whole of Bretton to see this
see the way I follow the space and fill it
and it doesn’t matter that the court is uneven
because I can chase the angles down
me of unapologetic child muscle and jaguar focus
me of pink light-up trainers and cloud-touching hands.

After practise we go to Grandma’s
her of floor length navy skirts and monkeypuzzle hair
her of Elnett hairspray aura and tightened lips.
It’s strange, but she moves with the same intention as Pasquale’s dad
with the poise of a swordfish
she tries to teach me how to be a lady
with board games she cheats to win
to show me how to lose
and I’m just not good at it
but she tells me its how I should be
and I am six years old and I still need a wee
but now I have to ask to be excused
and I don’t know where my voice has gone
me of whispered apologies and balloon dreams
me of neon eyes and crossed knees.
The years that follow will show me how to split
leave a bit of me on the court, stretch skin into net
while the rest of me will be batted back and forth
between who I want to be and who I should be.

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