On the Rise

By | 1 June 2022

All morning, the brothers work
their father. They break him—he leaves
his odd jobs undone and drives them to the tennis club.

White cloud banks avalanche. Wasps cloud the drink taps. Summer heat rubbers
the air treacly with the wattle
lancing the court fence, fingers gold

as the kangaroo on the little brother’s racquet throat.
The northerly swirls the ball—its ballpoint. Neither brother
can middle it. This proppy error

spray, heatstroke, herringbone soles scoring
parched en tout cas into gags
of pink dust. Their father, who’s removed his shirt, feeds them

drill sequences, opportunities—take it
early, take it on the rise, Agassi it, never let it come to you,
go out and meet it. Play your way in.
But against the graffitiing

wind, strokes prove reactive, countermeasures,
impotent and shocking and depthless, the way the little brother
that holiday tried to punch waves back to the mid-ocean.

They run out of balls. Their father gathers them in the basket,
squeezing the pressurised rubber through the metal slats.
Wattle in his pockets, the older brother

watches the little brother run at speed
towards their father whose back is turned, racquet
aglow, as if the graphite has yet to harden,

as if the graphite that meets their father’s
spine, between the shoulder blades, were a molten
cast, beginning to set.

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