Once you agree to walk with him,
you walk the crushed red track
with the disgruntment you’ve been
carrying around for days
ever since you did the math
and realized you were no longer
middle-aged and he tells you how
disgruntment is not a word and how,
second of all, you shouldn’t want
your face to match the poorly-
thought-out sky and how,
in the third place, today’s grey sky
looks like a painting
no one would ever buy.
The track you walk circles
a practice football field
behind the country school
funded by Exxon, the only
business in the river bottom
once known as Poverty Flats.
An orange Just Say No Frisbee
abandoned in the outside lane
reminds him of what he didn’t do,
and why he’s here now doing laps,
bagging trash, recovering wind
and strength and friendship.
There’s a softball, lost in deep grass.
His throw falls short
of the tool shed and he mourns
his aging mourn about the increasing
lack of distance in his throw.
You do the math and tell him how,
fourth off, he’s gained two yards
for every three years you’ve known him
and, fifth of all, it’s good he’s quit aiming
for that poorly thought-out sky.