Gibson Fay-LeBlanc gives us several kinds of play in his Hockey Poem. There is the playing of the game itself with its delicious vocabulary. Then there is the playfulness of the banter in the locker room. There is the play of music in lines like “twitch and switch and slip puck into net.” And then there is play of imagination as the speaker envisions the goalie being moved by a poem of fraternal love to feel things he never thought he could. Fay-LeBlanc gives us all the richness (and rudeness) of locker room banter, puts us right there in the imagined game, and then, like a perfect goal, puts the emotional puck right in the net of our hearts.
This poem is from Gibson Fay-LeBlanc’s most recent book, Deke Dangle Dive (CavanKerry Press, 2021). He is also the author of Death of a Ventriloquist (University of North Texas, 2012), which won the Vassar Miller Prize and was featured by Poets & Writers as one of a dozen debut collections to watch. His poems have appeared in many prestigious journals. He serves as executive director of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.
Betsy Sholl, MAJ poetry editor.
The goalie—sixties and fit, his graying mustache
leaping as he spoke—said, No fucking talk
about books here, to two defensemen
breaking down a novel. The room—we were
cinching shoulder pads, grabbing helmets—
roared. If you haven’t been in this locker room,
here follows the list of subjects allowed: sex lives
with detail, deer or moose hunting, barrooms,
and hockey—kids, adult, professional, pond,
women’s. We’re twenty-first century
hockey players, I said, and then, I read
this wonderful poem the other day. We roared
again. I wasn’t kidding but wanted the roar.
Dear Committees, keep your fucking medals
for reading poems or writing them—someday
I’ll deke that goalie—catlike at six on a Thursday,
swiveling, kicking out puck after puck—
I’ll crush a body, sprint the boards and swing
in front of him, show him the forehand
twitch and switch and slip puck into net
then I’ll deliver lines on a man who finds
and kisses his brother, and the goalie’s heart will leap
and flutter in the way he thought could never
happen outside this brutal, beautiful game.
Image at top: Duncan Hewitt, Twelve Skates, carved and painted with wood/metal fabrication and tape, 2009–23 (photo: Joel Tsui).