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Nisus and Euryalus, a poem by Joshua Kulseth

Nisus and Euryalus

In winter shut behind doors we’d shoot 

contests from the foul line: a game

          of who could make

most in a row. Beginning again and again until

our arms ached, when dinner was called

          we walked back

to the common room as slow as we liked, practically

touching we were so close, jostling one another,

          gravel sliding underfoot.

I watched you in a game of pickup, moving between defenders, 

cutting to the basket; it was like they were

          fumbling in the dark—

you made it look that easy, and I loved you. On the court 

unstoppable; we swatted the ball,

          fluid in our moving

together. You caught me up into yourself cracking 

jokes when I wanted to cry, taking me on walks 

          or to the courts

to beat me again; you beat me at everything. It broke me 

to lose you in the dark, in the brambles where I tried

          retracing my steps,

you in the enemy’s camp, captured or defected

I couldn’t tell. I wept over leaving you alone to juke, or sprint,

          or cut whatever

way you needed to get yourself free. I couldn’t hold you

then; I had a job to do, and watched you led


and girded myself in the shining helmet, running the path 

to where our own forces lay, to deliver

          the message of war.

Joshua Kulseth earned his B.A. in English from Clemson University, his M.F.A. in poetry from Hunter College, and his Ph.D. in poetry from Texas Tech University. His poems have appeared and are forthcoming in Tar River Poetry, The Emerson Review, The Worcester Review, Rappahannock Review, The Windhover, and others. His poetry manuscript, Leaving Troy, was shortlisted for the Cider Press Review Publication Competition and has recently been accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press. He is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Franciscan University of Steubenville.