The Prodigal Son’s Older Brother as Wimbledon Chair Umpire – Friday Poetry

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Photo by Kees Streefkerk on Unsplash

What the older brother squandered

was his sweat,

which, had he known it was as dissolute as life in the far country,

might have traded out for something more exciting.

But his fierce integrity to the American dream

was his particular delusion.

“Virtue can be earned in honest labor.”

Only honesty was not his aim.

He sought the umpire’s chair at Wimbledon—

six feet above contradiction.

He knew the score before you ever served a shot.

You’d never be as pure as him.

 

What pious poppycock!

As if sweat doesn’t also stink

with the same odor of self-righteousness.

As if he couldn’t also build in his head

a god of his own—

one who makes stringent law 

violable only by the older brother

(whose offenses caused negligible offense.)

Loose living. Hard labor. They’re all the same.

Facades for our tragic inability to see

that on the other side of them,

and shot through within them,

is the grace we’ve never known

and fear

and dare not hope to find.

–Alex Joyner

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