It is all about speed and flexibility, about speed
and flexibility and teamwork and accuracy. We move
like neurons charging in your head, man,
choreography from the ground up,
meanwhile smelling the hot asphalt and exhaust,
the chainlink fence around the playground spinning
past the corner of our eye, with the traffic and storefronts,
what the ball feels like in our hands, hard, pebbled, orange
and black, what the dribble feels like,
the sound and pound, the sort of lope we adopt
getting on and off the court, the way somebody looks
when he starts to play, his face and his sneakers, it’s all part of it.
When we swivel it is a whiplash, when we pass it is a cannonball,
when we leap, we hang in the air like Nijinsky taking a nap,
when the ball goes in we slap each others’ shoulders and butts
then turn like a flock of barn swallows, you know our ancestors
were farmers, they had barns, they watched the birds
flying around in formation at sunset,
or a school of fish, you know the way fish dart
in unison, the way the tempo changes and they just bat off,
you can’t begin to guess how they do it. You could say
we slosh like waves in a bathtub, back and forth,
and when we dunk one it feels good, but
the way we play it, there are no pauses in this game.
From No Heaven (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Alicia Ostriker. Used with the permission of the poet.
I split every bit of sunlight at College Park’s ball court—
land of sweaty Rebook tees & patriotic wristbands—
escalating to the rim like every player on that court would do
to the Lafayette Square Mall mezzanine on weekends.
Every bit of tangled shine around my neck: a hypotenuse
of intention. Highlights are the only lights in my low-rise
space of sneaker to shin & elbow to crown. The only time
I dunked, the court exploded like a party hearing “You
Gots to Chill” for the first time. & when the smoke cleared,
I hung as tight as a sweaty headband on that rim, talking
smack to the other nine ballers & to their nine mamas. Then
the slipping & cracking. Then the next two months left-handing
jumpers, blurry scribbles on my cast, the basketball rotating
as insistently as the back-spinning apple that split Galileo’s wig.
From Map to the Stars (Penguin Books, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Adrian Matejka. Used with the permission of the author.
Twenty-two stalwarts in stripes and shorts Kicking a ball along, Set in a square of leather-lunged sports Twenty-two thousand strong, Some of them shabby, some of them spruce, Savagely clamorous all, Hurling endearments, advice or abuse, At the muscular boys on the ball. Stark and stiff ’neath a stranger’s sky A few hundred miles away, War-worn, khaki-clad figures lie, Their faces rigid and grey— Stagger and drop where the bullets swarm, Where the shrapnel is bursting loud, Die, to keep England safe and warm— For a vigorous football crowd! Football’s a sport, and a rare sport too, Don’t make it a source of shame. To-day there are worthier things to do. Englishmen, play the game! A truce to the League, a truce to the Cup, Get to work with a gun. When our country’s at war, we must all back up— It’s the only thing to be done!
This poem is in the public domain.
My son wants to know
his name. What does he look like? What does
he like? My son swims
four days a week. When my son swims
underwater, he glides
between strokes. When he glides underwater, he is
an arrow aimed
at a wall. Four days a week, his coach says,
coming up for air.
My father had blue eyes, blonde hair,
though mine are brown.
My father could not speak
Spanish and wondered, How can you love
another man? We rarely touched.
When my son
is counting, I count
with him. I say, I am
your father, too. 1…2…
Copyright © 2019 by Blas Falconer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
If you did—
knock you down (remember Liston) &
ing you would
bust out (remember the March on Washington)
of your shakin' vaulted
poor thinkin' self (oh yes!)
& change (that's right!)
this big 'ol world (say it!)
& if you did— You (yes, you)
would have to battle w/words & rhymes & body & time—for
your New Idea—(did you hear that ) you would
endure (i hear you ) & propose (what?)
a new name for all
( a new name?)
it could be Peace
it could be Unity (sounds easy)
but this poem cannot
or contain this
Word —(Watch out!)
here it comes! &
(it's gonna to sting like a bee)
Copyright © 2016 by Juan Felipe Herrera. Used with permission of the author.