Monday, April 1, 2013

Poet's Corner: "Fast Break" by Edward Hirsch

The Sweet Sixteen have come and gone, and the Elite Eight have been narrowed to a Final Four. We may have to wait a few more days to determine a champion, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the roundball through a little poetry today, right? I had a hard time deciding whether to post the one below, which most of us can relate to as fans, or this one, which many of us relate to as sadly broken-down, hobbyist ballers. They're both great.

Fast Break
In Memory of Dennis Turner, 1946-1984

A hook shot kisses the rim and
hangs there, helplessly, but doesn’t drop,

and for once our gangly starting center  
boxes out his man and times his jump

perfectly, gathering the orange leather  
from the air like a cherished possession

and spinning around to throw a strike  
to the outlet who is already shoveling

an underhand pass toward the other guard  
scissoring past a flat-footed defender

who looks stunned and nailed to the floor  
in the wrong direction, trying to catch sight

of a high, gliding dribble and a man  
letting the play develop in front of him

in slow motion, almost exactly
like a coach’s drawing on the blackboard,

both forwards racing down the court
the way that forwards should, fanning out

and filling the lanes in tandem, moving  
together as brothers passing the ball

between them without a dribble, without  
a single bounce hitting the hardwood

until the guard finally lunges out  
and commits to the wrong man

while the power-forward explodes past them  
in a fury, taking the ball into the air

by himself now and laying it gently  
against the glass for a lay-up,

but losing his balance in the process,  
inexplicably falling, hitting the floor

with a wild, headlong motion
for the game he loved like a country

and swiveling back to see an orange blur  
floating perfectly through the net.

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