The arc of a ball falling must
have convinced Mesoamericans that changing
the cycle of life was strictly for children.
The Mayans used their balls for first basketball,
then ritual, but never for wheels in real motion.
Like every sportsman, they wanted the ball
just long enough
to return it to its rightful position.
Back and forth, the game had a rhythm,
a cycle, like a pendulum
and sometimes the Mayan
sacrificed even the winners
for disrupting or changing the season.
No player wants to witness
the wheel of life turning incessantly,
like the sun returning and burning
some worshipers out of existence,
any more than you catch a pendulum
or a maypole when it’s swinging
testing time, gravity, everything,
even fixing it,
if one makes allowances for changes in altitude,
wind resistance, and the guide length you give it.
Which is why, possibly, only children were given permission
to keep toy menageries, jaguars on wheels,
thereby slowing them down to measurable existence.
Life only at the center, the axle,
the ball spinning in tight cycles,
the past lapping the future,
forward motion, just an illusion,
unable to conceive of friction,
intolerant of change,
they may not even have been ready for rain
which rolled less and less their way at the end.
My mother, my grandmother, almost opposites
Both lived their lives as false positives,
passing long, drunken tests from their exes
Their strange calm some imbalance between patience and frustrated
Being accustomed and unwilling to enforce limits
Their ex-husbands invented
They were the flat ends of scissors rending fabric transparent
Sharp as mosaic, pieces flat but interconnected,
Which can only be seen as something real from a distance
A broadcast you received like a satellite
Emergency broadcasts mixed with the weather
And sent back to strangers without meaning danger
They had so many lighted windows, you couldn’t see the framework
And curtains so light that they acted more like spirits
Which hide history, inviting you to look right through the interior
To their shadows, their opposites,
Their children, their exes, turned dark by omnipresent search lights
Until even the warm glow of night lights begins to seem ominous
Like street lights lining roads as loved ones start leaving
They were safes so secure you couldn’t see their emptiness
Full of vulnerabilities, though no one looked for them.
And almost without realizing it,
They cored the tree they’d learned from originally, growing
As if they didn’t want to see that same apple grow poisonous again.
Their children, their grandchildren