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Michael Sandler

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Not the day Confederates
would celebrate, more an occasion
to conceal a necessary loss.

We hid what other families hide:
teenage hurts, an elder’s
disappointments, divided states
joined in partial truce—
a day he’d bring me
to the local court, its clay
red as a Georgia battleground.

Small talk, warm-up—then rally,
forehands whistling down the lines,
scattershot of backhands
and, on scoring a point,
his stentorian Advantage;
quieter for Deuce or Love.

Calling out: a gesture that goes
with rank. Abrasively assured
in the throat of a higher-up,
aggressive (or submissive)
from the adenoids of the unfledged
and those who’ve lost too often.
Never one to give way,
he had to prove worth
by winning—and losing
my sang-froid seemed in my blood—

but this day went better than expected.
He looked a little slower.
Or was I faster?
My serves had some sting,
volleys sharp, on target
and, unlike past beatings,
I nearly won the set, a tie-breaker.
At the net, he half-smiled
like a warrior whose tour was up,
and extended a hand.

Walking back, we must have formed
a comradely pair with rackets sheathed,
his arm draped over me
and mine over him,
our wounds for the moment bound.

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Michael Sandler is the author of the poetry collection, The Lamps of History (FutureCycle Press 2021) that Kirkus Reviews described as a “complex, electric work of erudite poems.” His work has appeared in scores of journals including Arts & Letters, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Zone 3. Michael lives near Seattle; his website is

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