Croquet as Ritual

The season shifts to rest as frost
begins to coat the patterned lawn.
The tangent wooden spheres that crossed
such narrow spaces just draw out yawns

from us settling the final game,
we who heard laughter in the spring.
Dressed ritually in white, we frame
the year in terms of mallet swings,

and so, the time comes for an end
to our priesthood of scholar-preps,
till swollen winter retreats and mends
the court we served with our footsteps.

We meditate about the reason
each year we continue to ordain
our lives with meaning when the season
of simple lawn games comes again.

Just like a quest for mythic rites,
and just as arcane, the sequence starts
over when evening takes in daylight
later as the fall hours depart.

Some act off one another, eyeing
a pattern through the outlined course:
the hoop, the strike, the ball just lying
for an endgame by some tour de force.

And others join, having the sport
itself as the sole end. With skill
for skill’s sake, reverence helps support
set efforts, despite the missing will.

We gather as passé gentlemen
within a slight, barbarian age
and speculate about the end
someday, and still we silence our rage.

-published in The Pennsylvania Review