- Liz Ahl
At the University Hockey Game
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
By Liz Ahl
I’m never quite sure
what I should pay attention to—
I can barely follow the puck’s
ricochet across the ice, so instead
I watch the bodies of the players
who chase it, two of them my students,
their last names emblazoned across their shoulders,
but they move so quickly they become numbers
for most of the game, though occasionally,
through the helmets’ cages, I make out their eyes,
dark bullets seeking the careening target,
the object of a desire so physical an invisible
wire slings them back and forth
across the ice in pursuit—
How am I supposed to feel when one of them,
generally quiet and compliant during class,
gets sent to the penalty box for some offense
I missed that left him and another player
sprawled side by side? In the chilly stands,
protected on the other side of the glass,
I know how I feel when he’s sprung,
slung back into the choreographed swarm
of his team’s final, overtime push to want harder,
to take from the Visitors, with blades and blows,
what they must.
By Liz Ahl
How have you survived
the whiteboarding and digitizing?
You leave yourself behind, everywhere.
My fingertips, my shirt front, my hair.
Your ghostly remains gather
in the corners of the classroom.
As I scrawl across the board,
you leave letters strung into words –
all of it made
from the left-behind parts of you –
your blood, your dandruff.
Whose turn is it to go outside
to clap you from the erasers
in the brisk afternoon light?
Companion to slate and sidewalks,
cousin to the number two pencil,
from what ivory mine
were you scraped? Or did you wash up
on a beach, like a shell or bone?
Always, in the nick of time,
a fresh stick appears,
left by a kindly, invisible steward.
You taste like Pepto-Bismol,
like granite, like fear.
I use you up, like language,
grate you down to nubs.
You are one inch,
you are dust, and to dust
you shall return,
are always returning.
Liz Ahl is the author of the poetry collections A Case for Solace (Lily Poetry Review Books, 2022) and Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2017). Individual poems have appeared recently in Rogue Agent, West Trestle Review, Able Muse, and elsewhere. She is a member of the faculty at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. Her website: lizahl.com.