It’s almost time for Maine’s high school basketball tournament, and this week’s poem captures what losing is like, in the shadow of those other, bigger losses that none of us can avoid.

Jefferson Navicky is the author of “The Book of Transparencies” (Kernpunkt Press, 2018) and “The Paper Coast” (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018). He is the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection, teaches English at Southern Maine Community College and lives in Freeport.

After the Game

By Jefferson Navicky

the last of your junior year of high school,

after you lost in the Regional Semifinals

on a half court buzzer beater

that may or may not have been after the buzzer,

but regardless, you sit in the locker room.

 

No one on the team speaks. You always resent the expectation

that loss should affect you so much, how coaches

want you to take each one as a mortal blow.

You should pout, get mad, go for blood,

but of course you don’t, and when the coach is spitting in your face,

screaming about revenge and its importance, you think, “I don’t

care about you and never will.”

 

After the game

the last of your senior year of high school,

after you lost in the District Semifinals

on your failed three-point play that wasn’t even close,

you sit again in the locker room,

a different locker room, but the setting of loss

is always the same. No matter Steubenville or Athens,

the aftermath is always silent.

 

Later, when you’re older, loss will mean more.

No longer winning and losing, but instead,

people dead, family, friends gone far away, dreams of what you

thought you’d be, who would applaud you, what award you’d win.

 

But now, after the game, you’re the first one

to the showers, the first to dress, because you

are so relieved to be done. You are ready

for what’s to come, higher stakes, other seasons,

and in fact, you tell yourself, you’re ready to meet it all head on,

as only the young can when they’re certain they can handle anything.

 

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is poet who lives in Portland. Poem copyright © 2018 Jefferson Navicky. It appears here by permission of the author.

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