Everywhere you go,
Peace and quiet
have this down
to a science.
They send out their tails
to watch and record
everything that happens
while you’re out there
looking for that certain
trying to get better.
They blend in undercover
and look like exactly
They’re armed with technology.
Don’t look for them, though.
This isn’t the time
Just be prepared:
when you do finally give up
and come home
there may be a lot
of silly posters hanging
It’s just because
we love you.
“May I remind you
that a regulation ping pong table
has an overall length of 8.99 feet.
And it reflects sound very well.
You don’t have to yell, Hafiz.”
My last shot had veered off
into a blatant nowhere
like a heat-seeking rocket
aimed at the hero
of an action movie.
It was bad.
But Hafiz is not listening to me.
Instead, he is performing his shuffle,
which is part the Robot dance,
part the Moonwalk,
and mostly a poor rendition
of Chi Chi Rodriquez.
Then he takes the ball,
bounces it off the table
and sets it on the palm
of his hand like it’s about
to turn into a bird and fly off.
He is holding his breath,
squinting at the ball,
waiting for some inner cue.
“It’s ping pong, Hafiz.
Serve the damn ball.”
He is wearing a sombrero
with laminated pictures
of the greatest ping pong players
of the last seven generations
hanging all around him.
They are all making grotesque faces
with varying degrees of success,
like they’re at a Maori training camp.
The pictures click a little when he moves his head
and they knock together.
He twirls his paddle in his hand.
He sways on the balls of his feet,
contemplating his pending serve.
He is crouched like a stalking puma
for ten whole seconds before
finally he rises out of his stance and says,
“Be very careful, my friend.
If you mope around all day
asking the Beloved to make you ordinary,
one day you will sprout feathers,
you will see through time,
and your words will move nations.
Babies and mountain lions
will sit quietly beside you.
For Love, this is what is meant
by every day.”
“Serve the damn ball.”
He shrugs his shoulders,
throws it up in the air
and then darts in three ways at once
while the ball is on its way down.
The ball flys to my left, hits the table,
leaps forward with a burst of speed
and curls to my right.
I’m wrong-footed but suddenly
I don’t care. I swing the paddle
as if restraint no longer has meaning to me.
I put my whole life into it.
I just catch the ball with the edge of my paddle
and launch it straight up into a maze
of suspended lighting systems,
miniature trusses and fire sprinkler piping.
It rattles around like a pinball
off of conduits, steel wing-dings, speakers,
security cameras, bar joists and spider webs,
before finally dropping out
of the ceiling jungle on the far side of the room,
like a fresh robin’s egg,
right into the corner pocket
of an empty billiards table
The ping pong saints are swaying.
“What a fine piece of skill,” he says.
“I would say–
that is your advantage.”
Then he runs for the opposite wall
and leaps through the air
like a ballerino,
while I marvel at what
the purity of my own feeling