The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Wednesday and Kenwood Cherry Blossoms

Next Door
By Jessica Greenbaum

Robbie Gross is dribbling, then fakes a shot, then takes it,
the metronome of his solo practice an accompaniment
so persistently tapping its foot in my days that 4 A.M.,
forty years later, hearing a basketball tock
on the sidewalk below my window, I am returned
to my first room, separated by a mulberry tree
and hedges from where Robbie Gross is dribbling, then
fakes a shot, then takes it, the metronome so persistently
tapping its foot in my days that I knew we were keeping time
but what song was it during games with our older brothers
and after they left, shooting by himself, like the tree
alone falling, morning and long afternoon, through my
books, through all my ages—what song? I broke
the court's code and deciphered the slow dribbles—I'll.
while the shooter sized up the competition or
focussed his solitary mind, and then the bomb-fuse ticktickticktick
while he feinted right, moved left, setting up the shot
and the listener (not trying to listen) and then the blank
space of the arcing quiet as he shoots. That silence
is also like the space between the reader and the page,
the little nation between the writer's words and our
particular way of receiving them, or the blank station
we fill in between ourselves and passing strangers,
or between ourselves and people we presume to know,
but most achingly in the ones we try to know.
Then came my guess whether the shot went in, hit the rim, or
bounced off the garage, because I had the misfortune
to grow up next-door friends with the pudgy Rob Gross
who became the most handsome Robbie, growing taut
and sly for having played from the outside line for so long,
and by his last June when the beautiful Margie Harmelin
rode over from her neighborhood and laid her bicycle
on its side before they both went indoors, by then
he only caught my eye with reticence, a muffled kindness
passing to me from under his shaggy bangs,
nearly embarrassed for me, as I now understand it,
because he was bluff enough to know what he had become
to any young woman, and what I was becoming in my
blank space, my window, like this one from which I just
heard Robbie Gross take a shot, from which I just
dreamed hearing the song the world called "Don't. Wait."


From this week's New Yorker. Greenbaum's 2000 book is Inventing Difficulty.

We had a fairly quiet last-day-of-spring-break, partly because we had no vehicle with working air conditioning and the region had record-breaking high temperatures over 90 degrees. So we kept our car rides short, going in the morning to the Kenwood neighborhood in Bethesda which is renowned for having more than a thousand Yoshino cherry trees along its streets. We parked and walked around the circle in the center of town and the middle of the divided main road, which has forsythia and willows as well as the cherry blossoms. Many of the houses have beautiful gardens as well, with lots of daffodils, tulips, dogwood, and other flowers in bloom. As it got closer to lunchtime, several groups of people appeared with picnics and sat under the trees; I'm not sure whether they're residents or people who work nearby in downtown Bethesda.


On the way home we stopped at the library to return books, then at the mall to look at digital cameras for Adam, who has outgrown his very inexpensive HP Photosmart now that he's blogging regularly. He decided to do some more research before buying anything, so we went to Greenberry for frozen yogurt, then dropped the kids off at home and went to pick up the now-repaired minivan with working air conditioner (nearly everything was covered by the extended warranty, yay). I folded laundry and we watched Sharpe's Waterloo, which I'd gotten in the mood to see again and the kids are Sharpe fans too (they were very happy to point out all the ways in which Silly Billy fails). After dinner (veggie Hoppin' John, mmm), we watched the UConn-Stanford game, which ended as Paul's parents wanted, with the Huskies making history.

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