All’s Fair in Love and Golf


At the driving range–
I’m swinging pretty well lately.  Really, better than I ever have.  Most of the improvement has come from recognizing my age and not swinging out of my shoes.  I may even be earning smug rights.  Catholicism be damned–why do I always need to feel bad about what I love and for coming out on top.
Anyway, the guy two stalls down is struggling to recognize his own age.  He’s also struggling with every club in his bag.  And he’s pissed.  Somewhere in his thinning hairline is the pin to a head grenade, and it’s coming loose.
“God damn it, Mike!
“You chump!  You freak!
“Just hit the fucking ball, idiot!
“You suck!  You suck!  You suck!  (He did.)
“Stupid fucking practice balls!
“What the Hell is wrong with me!
“No, dick head; not like that!  That’s bullshit!  Bullshit!
I used to sound like him too, sometimes.  When I did, others avoided me like potato salad left in the sun all day.  And though I’m generally helpful to strangers, I avoided this one.  I was almost out of practice balls and, with an empty wallet, wanted to concentrate on making the most of the ones I had left. But I couldn’t avoid him for long.  After a while he walked over to watch me.
“Jesus, you have a great swing.  You gotta have a single-digit handicap.”
“Actually, I don’t play golf.  I just come to the range once in a while to try and remember what it’s like.  I played years ago but wasn’t very good.  I certainly couldn’t hit very far.”
This wasn’t entirely true but I knew what was coming next.  I raked another ball from the tray with my eight iron and made an easy three-quarter swing, sending it on a high flight that ended a yard left of the 156 yard flag (my best swing all month).
“There, you see?  I pulled that one.  I’m getting old and I’m really not that good.”
That was that.  He walked back to his stall, picked up his clubs, and left.  That worked great for me.  He left about a hundred balls behind, and I got them all.  I probably could have followed him to the parking lot and bought his clubs cheap.  Senior discount!
Life isn’t fair, but golf always is.

Gavin W Sisk



Young, I raced through summers in bare feet,
through sunburned fields with clover-crazy bees,
over shards of brown glass pushed to mounds
as alters heaped by mad old men cast down

to share their pain with an oblivious child.
Soap, a stiff brush, Mercurochrome, a smile:
salves for cuts from countless careless flights
across the scraps of countless shadowed lives.

Are paper, pencils, promises, and prayer;
silver clouds, the golden rule, our faith in fair;
sex, song, and vows to live in vivid view
of fields unmarred by mounded dreams askew

bars enough against brigades of venial sin
that live and somehow arm and aim to swim
and swarm through windows of our present tense
and change our songs of flight to dissonance?

Gavin W Sisk

Appealing a Banana

So, I went to my doctor because something needed looking at, and he poked around and looked at it very closely, and he referred me to a specialist who’ll look more closely still–who’ll use a camera on a ten-foot pole (a bendie ten-foot pole) to look really, really close. And at the same time, my doctor noticed my blood pressure is up, about which I thought: no duh, we both knew that ten years ago. So he ordered the phlebotomist to stick me in the inside-ouchy part of my elbow to suck out precious bodily fluids for testing because everybody (the nurses!) knows I don’t eat well most of the time (because I’m always in a hurry or late or whatever excuse is handy for shoving more carbs and fat and salt down my throat). Maybe I should change my ways–eat bananas at lunch, leave the alfredo sauce off my pasta.
It took just three days to get the lab results, which is, like, three weeks before I was really ready because I know I’m going to have to answer to somebody (oh God, the nurses!) for all my gastro-illogical sins. And then I read through the pages and pages of details of acronymical chemistry and all the ranges of values and the not-so-valuable values we all should value staying far, far away from. I read it all, digested it all, and timidly put my values up against their ranges to see how close so far to a heart attack or stroke I’ve come. And finally I found my doctor’s disappointingly breviloquent note at the bottom of the last page: “Everything normal.” And all I can think is, shit! After stuffing all that junk into my body, shouldn’t I have something more to show for it than two words and a prescription for water pills?

Dec. 2014

Her Fall Virus Wrapped in Fleece

Thursday there were paper clips
transmogrified over a burner:
anealed, quenched; now gifts
offered like tempered chocolate,
traded for chamomile and solitude.
Chemistry with poems in the margins.
The burning log, asthmatic nearly,
sounds like sheets beating on
a distant neighbor’s clothesline–
like Fall through long hair, she says.

Oct. 12, 2014

Ignorance Amiss

I ask periodically: if the collective knowledge of humanity were on our tables–fresh, sweet fruit in bowls–if the knives were sharp, forks clean, blue-lit bay windows reflected in the plates; if we bought all that, fought for that, posted photos, ranted and raved; if we dreamt it, had it, did it, yet locked our doors and never shared or even peeled a single grape; if it were all ours–indelible and inedible as gold–ours but only composed in bowls, would we be better off than broken dark-age serfs, than emberless Neanderthals, than the dust of the dead in their graves–would this be an age of enlightenment, or just an age’s ignorance decomposed to myth?

Oct. 2014

Bigotry and Tea

Bigotry is not a conservative’s disease. Liberals wear its pustules too. The virus lives in lines we draw–in sanctimonious snares we cinch ever-tighter around our communities. This is a disease of paradoxes and ironies thriving in the same constitutions that seem to admonish it. It blooms in technologies broadcasting to billions the thoughts of frightened minds retreating to their caves. We grow smaller as we grow larger. The proper pill–bitter apparently–is education and critical thinking, which we ignore. When the two are co-opted by politics and ignorance, we let the devil win. But maybe that’s his right.

In my tea leaves: 
Expect nothing; keep your promises; hope for the best.

Aug 10, 2014

Soft Targets

I have a golf swing I struggle mightily with.  But once in a while I’ll loft a ball softly near a distant pin at the driving range, and someone watching will say to me, “you have a really nice swing.”  I don’t like to look a gift horse in the mouth–but nice?  What’s nice about it?  I have a hundred things going on in my swing, six of which are useful and none repeatable.  During my swing I think a thousand things, and a thousand different things from swing to swing.  Which are the nice things?  Nice on the range but not on the course?  Nice today but not tomorrow?  Nice with a six iron but not with a comma?
That’s what I hate about golf.  Writing too.

July, 2014