Owed to Ankle Weights

Far as we could tell, Mark dreamt
of weightlessness & little else,
an entire career built upon

leapfrogging elephants
& lesser men. Though he
never deployed this exact

imagery in a public speech
or more casual tête-à-tête
over hot fries & Powerade,

the dream was well- known
throughout the jailhouse
beige middle school hallways

we bolted through.
Mark wears ankle weights
every day because that

is what ballers do
when they are serious,
& Mark is very serious

when it comes to
the business of giving
out buckets as a kind

of spiritual practice, ascension
under control, an outlet
pass flying language-like

across the length
of the court, Mark
catching the so-worn

sphere in his dominant
palm, switching

to the left without what most
would call thought, soaring
like an invocation

to the cylinder & the crowd
leaps right along with him.
Hands aloft in awe

of the boy who must have
some falcon in his blood
-line somewhere, the sheer

eloquence of his movement
enough to make them forget
whatever heaviness like a second

skeleton held them flush to the ground
that day, whatever slight or malice
born in silence by necessity

simply melts, falls like a man
made of flowers to the floor.
When we closed our eyes

that year we all saw the same
fecund emptiness staring
back, imagined all we could

hammer our bodies into by way
of pure repetition: sprinting
to the bodega for Peanut Chews

before the cheese bus could leave
us behind, toting little
brothers all the way up

past the third flight
with no break for breath,
jumping rope with the girls by

the hydrant by the hardware
store at least once a week,
two-pound silver bricks

strapped to each leg,
tucked as if contraband
or some secret knowledge

into the lips of our lucky
socks, all that kept us
from drowning.

From Owed (Penguin Poets, 2020). Copyright © 2020 Joshua Bennett. Used with permission of the author and Penguin Random House