When I was twelve, I shoplifted a pair
Of basketball shoes. We could not afford
Them otherwise. But when I tied them on,
I found that I couldn’t hit a shot.
When the ball clanked off the rim, I felt
Only guilt, guilt, guilt. O, immoral shoes!
O, kicks made of paranoia and rue!
Distraught but unwilling to get caught
Or confess, I threw those cursed Nikes
Into the river and hoped that was good
Enough for God. I played that season
In supermarket tennis shoes that felt
The same as playing in bare feet.
O, torn skin! O, bloody heels and toes!
O, twisted ankles! O, blisters the size
Of dimes and quarters! Finally, after
I couldn’t take the pain anymore, I told
My father what I had done. He wasn’t angry.
He wept out of shame. Then he cradled
And rocked me and called me his Little
Basketball Jesus. He told me that every cry
Of pain was part of the hoops sonata.
Then he laughed and bandaged my wounds—
My Indian Boy Poverty Basketball Stigmata.
Copyright © 2015 Sherman Alexie. Originally published in the Winter 2015 issue of Prairie Schooner. Used with permission of Prairie Schooner.
Mother fetches the fruit from the mango grove
behind closed bamboo.
Rips its paper-leather cover during midday recess,
before English class, describes their dance
peaches plums cantaloupes before my first-world
eyes. When the sun blazed on the dust,
she let the mellifluous fluids
fall on her assignment books.
Where the mangos were first planted, mother,
an infant, hid under gravel
swaddled by Lola, my grandmother,
after my mother’s aunt and uncle
were tied to the trunk
by the Japanese. Mother and daughter living off
fallen mangos, the pits planted in darkness,
before I was born.
We left the Philippines
for California dodging
U.S. Customs with the forbidden fruit,
thinking who’d deprive mother of her mangos.
Head down, my father denies that we have perishable
foods, waving passports in the still air,
motioning for us
to proceed towards the terminal.
Behind a long line of travelers,
my sisters surround mother
like shoji screens as she hides the newspaper-covered
fruit between her legs. Mangos sleeping
in the hammock of her skirt, a brilliant batik
billowing from the motion
of airline caddies pushing suitcases
on metal carts.
We walk around mother
forming a crucifix where she was center.
On the plane as we cross time zones, mom unwraps
her ripe mangos, the ones from the tree Lola planted
before she gave birth to my mother,
the daughter that left home to be a nurse
in the States,
who’d marry a Filipino navy man
and have three children of her own. Mother eating
the fruit whose juices rain
over deserts and cornfields.
Copyright © 2014 by Regie Cabico. Used with permission of the author.