Long Distance to My Old Coach

The reception's not bad, across 50 years,
though his voice has lost its boot-camp timbre.
He's in his 80's now and, in a recent photo,

looks it, so bald and pale and hard to see behind
the tallowing of flesh. Posing with friends,
he's the only one who has to sit—the man

three of us couldn't pin. "The Hugger,"
they christened him before my class arrived—
for his bearlike shape and his first name, Hugh.

He fostered even us, the lowly track squad.
"Mr. Morrison," I still call him. "You were
the speedster on the team, a flash," he recalls

with a chuckle. That's where his memory of me
fades. And what have I retained of him beyond
the nickname, voice, and burly shape? The rest

could be invention: memory and desire's
sleight-of-hand as we call up those we think
we've known, to chat about the old days

and the weather, bum hips and cholesterol,
our small talk numbing as a dial tone,
serious as prayer.

Poem copyright ©2015 by William Trowbridge, “Long Distance to My Old Coach,” from South Dakota Review, (Vol. 15, nos. 3 & 4, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of William Trowbridge and the publisher.
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