I would call and ask friends to play. Running out the door, calling to mom just before it shut, going to Michael’s to play. To Greg’s to play. To Matt’s to play. Nothing better in the world, at 3:10 pm allowed to escape enslaving school doors. Never mastered spelling or handwriting, failed the basics, and they would not appreciate a boy’s philosophical ranting too sensitive and lost to dreams. But at play I was expert. How to control a maroon three speed with a yellow banana seat roaring down asphalt alley, avoiding corrugated trash can obstacle course. Locating mandarin or marigold slugs buried in slithering earth. Collecting the one hundredth different bottle cap by railroad tracks of decay. The swing right, shoot left unblockable skyhook, and its swishing sound of nothing but net. But life and lives are old clutches grinding, or dress shirts serviceable, but stale. Over time, we no longer asked each other to play. There were parties with bottles spinning and kisses of gleaming lips. Slow dances awkward in frozen rows of whispering fears. Mall wonderings in endless circles, the mocking shy laughter of girls we wanted to love, and stories invented about their young breasts. A graduation unattended, watched drunk from triangle glass safety of skyscraper above. College and journeys to lands of revolution and daily demise like the slicing of bread. Love when I wanted sex and sex when I wanted love. Jobs found and jobs abandoned into the glory of San Francisco Union Square frenzy. Moments watching the ceiling fan count swirling invitations towards extinction. Now, I call friends, invite them to dinner, a poetry reading, a certain event. But really, all I want is to ask them if they can play, and they don’t laugh, but cry, cry internal pounding mad tears of what we have lost, that never again can be had. July 23, 2002
-- Rich Furman, MSW, PhD, is Associate Professor and Director of Social Work and Criminal Justice at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Rich has published over 100 scholarly articles, books, and book chapters. Rich’s main areas of research are social work practice with transnational Latino populations, men at risk and masculinities, and the use of the arts and humanities in social work practice, research and education. He has conducted research, practiced, volunteered or taught throughout Latin America.
His first full-length book of poems, Compañero was published by Main Street Rag Press (2007). He has published over 250 poems in various journals. He has performed his work throughout the United States, as well as in Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Guatemala. He recently completed a memoir, Falling South, about his ten months in Central America during the time of the Contra war. He is currently working on a novel and narrative nonfiction essays.