Hafiz was giving
a seaside discourse
on the subject of Love.
The wind was whipping
in off the surf, causing
flags to flutter and hats to fly.
Overhead, gray clouds and brilliant sun
were vying for dominance,
swirling around one another
so that the sky appeared to boil like a kettle.
A woman near the back stood
to ask a question.
“What about the hockey problem?”
The wind carried her words
directly from her mouth
to the next town over,
like trails of smoke
released into a wind tunnel.
“The house key problem?”
Hafiz replied, his hand
cupped to his ear. “This
is no problem, surely-“
“No, no!” she cried.
“The hockey problem!”
The act of yelling
really seemed to dislodge something
because she was off and running,
like a race horse lunging from the starting gate.
“All those goons crashing into each other,
smashing one another
up against the boards,
defaming one another’s mothers,
pointing and taunting
in between plays,
sacrificing teeth and bones
and their better natures
over a little rubber puck,
always losing their cool
and smacking things
with their sticks: each other,
the goal posts, the ice, the walls, the benches…
Oh- and spitting…
They spit, too.
Right on the ice,
on the bench, in the penalty box.
It’s gross, violent and vile.
It’s shameful and disgusting.”
She was really winding up
as she came around the far turn.
“It’s awful. Just awful.
It’s skulduggery with instant replay.
Each team has a couple of uncouth Goliaths
they send out onto the ice
like half-starved pit bulls
when enough is enough.
They whip around the rink
like heat-seeking missiles
until at least one man
wearing the wrong-colored sweater
is up-ended, lifted off his feet and twirled around
like an enemy flag being rent in two,
nearly dislodged from his moorings or
crumpled into the boards
for what someone did the last time to their guy.
Message delivered. Everyone cheers in approval,
their eyes hot and red,
their beers and chili dogs trembling in their hands,
as though justice has finally come to the land.
Then it’s back to the puck.
When the puck does what they want,
the players pound the glass with their fists
and scream like victorious barbarians.
When the puck doesn’t do what they want,
they pound each other with their fists
and grunt like the Roman legion.
And the whole time,
the coaches glare at everything in sight
like caged eagles who have taken offense
at existence itself.
It is a scar on this land,” she finally concluded.
“Something must be done.”
The wind blew.
The sun danced over the water.
The rest of the crowd
sat speechless, sharing a silence,
though each in their own way-
one stunned by the intensity of the outpouring,
one smirking and ready to laugh her off as a quack,
one curious how Hafiz would respond,
one wanting to comfort her,
one wanting to shut her the hell up
so time wouldn’t be wasted on such absurd questions,
and so on…
“This is not just an important question,” Hafiz said finally,
“it is the only question that matters.
Because if we are honest,
we can see that we each
have a hockey game inside of us.
We are full of hockey players,
and if they will fight like that
for a score line, imagine what
they will do when their
very existence is called into question.
I suggest,” he concluded,
“that everyone buy season tickets.”
“Distance does not transform.
You must stay close to them,
invite them into your Home.”
to your hockey players?”
“Oh, they are still there,” he said, winking.
“So… are they, like, figure skaters now?”
“No,” he scoffed, taking a moment to spit on the beach.
“No self-respecting hockey player could
turn to figure skating.”
“What then? Did they retire?”
They are toothless ambassadors of Existence itself,
charging across the heavens,
careening into every falsehood,
pinning them up against the boards,
daring them to test the resolve
of Love’s bannermen,
whispering from the bench
every time they skate past
that resistance is futile…
that one day you too
will join us, because
with Hafiz inside us,
we can keep this up all night…
Take the easy road, they say now.
Don’t be like we were,
learning the hard way that
no falsehood can go that distance…”