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Poem Number 122

Soccer Moms

Paul Muldoon

They remember Gene Chandler topping the charts with “Duke of Earl”
when the boys were set on taking the milk bar’s one banquette
and winning their hearts, Mavis and Merle,

as it seemed their hearts might be first to yield,
hearts before minds. Time for stilettos. Time for spivs with shivs.
The time of day when light fails on the field

while their daughters, themselves now tweenie girls,
crowd round a coach for one last tête-a-tête.
They remember Gene Chandler topping the charts with “Duke of Earl”

while the world still reeled
from the anti-Castro Cubans going to sea in a sieve,
as it seemed. Their hearts might be first to yield

if only after forty years of one plain, one purl,
on the sweater they’ve sweated over for a Bay of Pigs vet,
and winning their hearts, Mavis and Merle,

may now be faintly likelier for a well-heeled
schlub to whom they once wouldn’t so much as give
the time of day. When light fails on the field

a schlubster linesman will unfurl
an offside flag that signals some vague threat,
they remember. Gene Chandler topping the charts with “Duke of Earl”

for three weeks only in 1962 might have taught them to shield
themselves against the lives their daughters briefly relive,
as it seemed their hearts might be first to yield

to this free kick that forever curls
past the goal mouth, the ball at once winging into the back of the net
and winning. Their hearts, Mavis and Merle,

hanker for the time when it was not yet revealed
failure’s no less literal than figurative,
the time of day when light fails on the field

and gives back a sky more muddy than mother-of-pearl,
so it’s with a deepening sense of regret
they remember Gene Chandler topping the charts with “Duke of Earl”
and winning their hearts, Mavis and Merle.

 

from The New Yorker, 2004

Copyright 2004 Paul Muldoon.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission (click for permissions information).