Badminton Net and Lost Birdies
by Marjorie Maddox
Though we rarely play,
we leave the net up when it rains,
the sagging lines reminders of what
in us divides and unifies. Behind it
(or in front, depending on your side),
a squirrel prostrates himself
against the yard’s one oak and chatters
prayer—or perhaps new rules—
to this game we do not play. Prayer, games,
even now I cannot take the other side and say
they are the same, that one begets the other
or divides to twins so alike
the mother may, for seconds at a time, forget
which one is which, unless, side by side,
they strike out with some different rhythm.
Still, our neighbors say, even this net
could catch our prayers and games,
pull itself up, and toss them into sky
like all our plastic birdies gone awry,
and there would be no difference in our lives.
On this we’re unified: we pound the stakes in
deeper, talk about retying
the net, about playing.
SOURCE: Previously published in Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, finding the lost “birdie” (2017).
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Because it took some effort with young children, once our backyard badminton net was up, it was up for much of the summer, no matter how much the net sagged, how many “birdies” we lost, how many times someone quit mid-game, or how often opponents switched sides because of “obstacles”: trees, sun, ruts in the yard, etc. Years later the lost shuttlecocks, the sagging net, and the determination to still pound in the stakes, to still play, seemed an apt metaphor for belief, doubt, and life in general. As a side note, recently, I “found” one of those “lost” birdies still in the backyard. I use it when I conduct “Writing Poetry That Moves” workshops at elementary schools.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including True, False, None of the Above, Local News from Someplace Else, Wives’ Tales, Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation, and Perpendicular As I—the short story collection (Fomite Press), and over 500 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press), she also has published FOUR children’s books˜. Visit her at www.marjoriemaddox.com.