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Old Dominion

The shadows of late afternoon and the odors of honeysuckle are a congruent sadness.
Everything is easy but wrong. I am walking across thick lawns under maples in borrowed
tennis whites. It is like the photographs of RandalIJarrell I slared at on the backs of books in
college. He looked so sad and relaxed in the pictures. He was translating Chekhov and wore
tennis whites. It puzzled me that in his art, like Chekhov's, everyone was lost, that the main
chance was never seized because it is only there as a thing to be dreamed of or because
someone somewhere had set the old words to the old tune: we live by habit and it doesn't
hurt. Now the thwack . . . thwack of tennis balls being hit reaches me and it is the first sound
of an ax in the cherry orchard or the sound of machine guns where the young terrorists are
exploding among poor people on the streets of Los Angeles. I begin making resolutions: to
take risks, not to stay in the south, to somehow do honor to Randall Jarrell, never to kill
myself. Through the oaks I see the courts, the nets, the painted boundaries, and the people
in tennis whites who look so graceful from this distance.