Visiting a Friend in his Barn

It is a wonderful conversion with large, open
and airy space for this pair of triple-vaccinated

older guys who are still being conscientious
when meeting up to imagine what will alter

for the new year. He has set out two wooden chairs
and a small table in between – it is as if we will

engage in debate or play a game of chess when
the board arrives. On the first fanciful probability,

there’s no argument as we both decimate the
Tories for their lies, corruption and sleaze: not

that hopeful for change here when the same is
happening on that other continent with its own

disintegrating democracy; of the second, there’s
no chess – we have never played together (me

not once) – but I am challenged to a test of table
tennis, another beneficiary of the barn dimensions.

I’ve genuinely not played for years, and he –
surely – has had combats with the many in his

family who visit there, not least this Christmas
just gone when he honed his skills.

It is a cameo bout, a sparring for things to
come when I return more readied and willing:

and now I know his shot – that flick to the side
just over the net and hard to reach, even more

taxing then bending down to chase errant balls
across the great expanse of that beautiful floor.