Joseph Boyden, CBC Poet Laureate
Joseph Boyden and Alison Gzowski at Emerald Hills, ON June 2009
Good Game: An Epic of Miniature Proportions
Alternatively titled: Reading the Green, in Order to Fulfill the Requirements of Somehow Tying in Literacy with Golf as Demanded by the Organizing Committee of the Peter Gzowski Golf Invitational
At the tender age of fifteen I was dragged to the links by my oldest brother, expected to take a club in my hand, and beat a small, dimpled ball across great lengths. I didn’t care that others stared at my Mohawk haircut and torn jeans, the piercings in my ears, my tattooed arms, the snarl across my lips. I was the enemy, the warrior in a traditional land of khakis and crisp shirts.
I’ve always been a watcher, a studier. With narrowed eyes I glanced the ones before me as they teed up on the first hole, a two hundred yard straightway before the dogleg. Men stood and concentrated, swore after the swing as they sliced or sputtered, with no more grace than awkward children.
With pinky wrapped about the pointer, the driver in my hand, my turn came. Although the others pretended not to watch this oddity, this freak in their midst, you know they did. A hush fell across the links: the distant drone or mowers shut down, chirping birds grown still, the sun peaking out from behind black clouds for the first time that day. Only the hollow draw of breath from deep in my chest, the thump of blood in my ears, this little white ball beneath me growing in size until it became a great moon, pulling all about into it’s orbit.
As I stood poised, floating above my moon, time slowed: the tick of a second now a minute. The whisper of my ancestors, first the Ojibwe urging me to use the driver like a war club, then the brogue of the Scottish telling me I’d finally come home to the game of my people. There was no more fear then, only the embrace of my past, the rush of a possible future, a future of green jackets and big endorsement deals. I’d never felt such elation, such peace.
And then another voice, this one hushing the others, so loud it shook me out of my monk-like zen.
Just hit the fucking ball!
My older brother, red-faced with embarrassment to see his punk rock younger sibling dawdling at the tee and talking to himself. The other parties waiting their turn snickered and whispered to one another behind cupped hands.
I turned back to my ball then, no longer a moon, but my brother’s wee head on a tee. Smiling, I arced the driver back, my form a golden bear’s. Releasing my breath I swung forward to slam that ball, the metallic pop of driver meeting nature’s most perfect design ringing out to hush the bastards all around me.
I tell you, mouths dropped open and there was no more snickering then, just the stilled awe of grown men, here to while away their day in the search for perfection, in the hope of striking that one perfect shot.
The sun smiled down on my tiny sphere arcing up, up, glancing through the light, straighter than my Mohawk, truer then anything up to that point in my young life I’d ever had the pleasure of seeing.