Match point

the opening serve, so to speak, goes to Rosie

– she pushes another empty wheelchair

ward to ward and our heads follow…

she was my father’s tennis partner

(a soft server, Mum whispers)

Cue the slow-mo, forty love, the social night comp

of the Lower Bucca Tennis Club, somewhere up the country

bugs peppering the live cross brightness,

or resuc room whiteness, of an old clay court,

chicken wire fence, frogmouth in the old pines

the grand and final memory is unremembering

– her, the game. I am past my use-by date, he repeats

as we wait for the surgeon, more patient for being one

and then he plays that game-turning phrase, saying

you could coff a gettee while we wait.

The doctor tells me it will kill him

if we do nothing and I counter – something must,

even if you do everything. But he runs marathons;

trains along the creek track and link road,

the surgeon looks like a cricketer, a bowler,

the registrar plays soccer, the nurse lifts

as my mother and I bring down the ceiling of care

for a father who tempts me with mixed metaphors

– final innings and all that, on the ropes, falling at the last hurdle.

He would never wave his arms at the ref,

throw a towel, slam his racquet to the ground

knowing how deep inside every person

is the same person when they were young

like growth rings in a tree – we should be obsessed

by the quiet slowness of ageing

or slowed by the quietness of age.

Rosie pushes another empty wheelchair

and our heads follow –

we watch the length of a four setter,

father would say we lengthen the watch of a settee four.

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