By David Ferry
It is an afternoon toward the end of August:
Autumnal weather, cool following on,
And riding in, after the heat of summer,
Into the empty afternoon shade and light,
The shade full of light without any thickness at all;
You can see right through and right down into the depth
Of the light and shade of the afternoon; there isn’t
Any weight of the summer pressing down.
In the backyard of the house next door there’s a kid,
Maybe eleven or twelve, and a young man,
Visitors at the house whom I don’t know,
The house in which the sound of some kind of party,
Perhaps even a wedding, is going on.
Somehow you can tell from the tone of their voices
That they don’t know each other very well—
Two guests at the party, one of them, maybe,
A friend of the bride or groom, the other the son
Or the younger brother, maybe, of somebody there.
A couple of blocks away the wash of traffic
Dimly sounds, as if we were near the ocean.
They’re shooting baskets, amiably and mildly.
The noise of the basketball, though startlingly louder
Than the voices of the two of them as they play,
Is peaceable as can be, something like meter.
The earnest voice of the kid, girlish and manly,
And the voice of the young man, carefully playing the game
Of having a grown-up conversation with him:
I can tell the young man is teaching the boy by example,
The easy way he dribbles the ball and passes it
Back with a single gesture of wrist to make it
Easy for the kid to be in synch;
Giving and taking, perfectly understood.
David Ferry, “Courtesy” from Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999). Copyright © 1999 by David Ferry. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations (The University of Chicago Press, 1999)
More By This Poet
What It Does
The sea bit,
As they said it would,
And the hill slid,
As they said it would,
And the poor dead
The poor head.
O topmost lofty
Tower of Troy,
The poem apparently
Speaks with joy
Of terrible things.
Where is the pleasure
The poetry brings?
Tell if you can,
What does it...
Seen Through a Window
A man and a woman are sitting at a table.
It is supper time. The air is green. The walls
Are white in the green air, as rocks under water
Retain their own true color, though washed in green.
I do not know either...
More Poems about Activities
I come home,
feet about to bleed
from angry stomping.
“Boy!” says Mom.
“Quit making all that racket.”
But what does she expect
when, day after day,
haters sling words at me
like jagged stones
designed to split my skin?
I retreat to my room,
collapse on the bed,
count, “One. Two....
Nowhere Else to Go
Turn off the lights.
Wear another layer.
(Sounds like a dad.)
(Sounds like a mom.)
You say hand-me-down.
I say retro.
Walk some more.
(See what I did there,
Your name in Sharpie
on a good water bottle.
Backpack. New habits.
No thanks, don’t need a bag.
Tell ten friends
More Poems about Arts & Sciences
The Last Word
I am a door of metaphor
waiting to be opened.
You’ll find no lock, no key.
All are free to enter, at will.
Simply step over the threshold.
Remember to dress for travel, though.
Visitors have been known
to get carried away.Illustration by Shadra Strickland
The Racist Bone
I know this is a real thing, because
When I was a kid, my big sister took me
To the Capitol Theater, in my hometown
Of Rochester, NY,
And there was a movie that afternoon,
The Tingler, which starred Vincent Price,
And what I remember best...
More Poems about Living
A wishbone branch falls
from my Grandma Thelma’s oak
What do you know about magic? e1 asks.
E bends e old body down, turns
the wishbone branch into
a cross, places it around my neck.
I am strapped at the Black River’s right shoulder,
I want to put down what the mountain has awakened.
My mouthful of grass.
My curious tale. I want to stand still but find myself moved patch by patch.
There's a bleat in my throat. Words fail me here. Can you understand? I...