Sudden Death Overtime

By Julian Koslow

Late afternoon in the face-reddening chill
our long-legged shadows run
down the library field, when every play
is “go long” for the last hour,
every drive the incredible
last-minute comeback drive.

In the fast-ripening, soon-falling, leaf-
pile-scented November light, geese
wing a flying wedge across
the honking air, our shouts
flocking after them through
the blue Hail Mary sky.

Our tight-knit numbers best suited
to touch, but we play tackle,
hurling ourselves at each other
for the brute joy of contact, of
knocking someone down, of being
knocked down hard to earth.

Playing on into twilight, when the air
glows with the memory of light, we
go more by sound than sight, it’s
the last snap and you fade back;
I run the route you showed me,
hear you counting in my head,
reach out my blind hands.

The ball comes fizzing in like
creation ex nihilo, a sharp pop
as it fits itself to my palms, now filled
with proof of our teenage telepathy:
a sure throw and a clutch catch.

I run on until I’m sure I’ve crossed
the line, fading in the fallen dusk,
then raise my arms in victory,
“sudden death,” we’d say.

But when I turn to look for you,
my friend, in the breathless air,
night has taken the field from us;
I do not see you there.

–for Russell E. Reilly, 1968-2014

Julian Koslow

Julian Koslow hails from New Jersey (Ph.D., Rutgers, 2005). He has taught and published on English Renaissance poetry (with articles on Ben Jonson and John Milton), but left academia to take care of a child with special needs. His poems have appeared in Sugar House Review, Delmarva ReviewThe Columbia Review, New Ohio Review, SRPR, Cumberland River Review, and Paterson Literary Review,among others. 

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