By Periods And Halves

I never learned to skate,
But that didn’t matter,
Because where I came from,
Everyone appreciated hockey.

We all saw the T-Shirts,
Knew “peewees” and “bantams”
Even if we couldn’t define them.

On some level I must have known
There were other cities, hotter tempers.
We were just a suburb,
Too small for the map,
Bigger than plenty that made the cut.

So we went on, being normal,
And taking normalcy for granted.
We were not special, did not stand out,
Had nothing new to say.
Even if you weren’t normal, you wanted
To be good, so you didn’t go around
Saying “haha, look how abnormal I am!
I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that,
Can you repeat? Explain? Spell out
How strange things are, how weak my ears?”
It would be a waste of everyone’s time.

We had no favorite sons–
Maybe a statesman, once,
Overseen in the bread store.

We had a favorite daughter.
She played hockey.

Then I moved on, and if people chilled,
I let them. Being normal,
I would not dare to believe
I was strange in some way.
Normal people took the losses with the wins,
And if we had failed somehow,
The scoreboard would do its catching up.

You see I didn’t learn the overtime rules,
All the technical nuances of centuries,
Regulations and all the names of
Canadian celebrities of the 1890s.
Every winter there was snow.

I don’t mean to say I pretended I cared,
Boasted about a favorite team,
Put up posters of a star
When I couldn’t have told you the score.
I did nothing by halves.

“It’s all right,” said the hotheads,
“Things are different here and now,
We don’t expect anyone to
Rattle off foreign aristocrats, goodness no.”

And I was silent,
Because I was normal,
And normal people were always part of the “we.”

Count me as one of you, or don’t, I thought.
But if you put words in my mouth,
I’ll become the enemy you want.
I can take up a blade,
I can check you into a wall.

We have, perhaps, another favorite daughter now,
Left home (a bigger town than they think,
But what do they know.)
Went to the city, made it big.
I read about her, just the other day.

Aha. She’s one of some other them, according
To the other thems who write the papers.
Someone they have to spend
Half the time explaining
In order to understand.

And I am one of them too.
I cannot see the “us” anymore,
Too dumb, too weak, too alone.
But they’re out there, waiting
For me to lace up.