Issue 7

Tim Shea
A Matter of Strides

When I return home from the playground where I shoot baskets alone,
I often recount with grandeur an unparalleled string of free-throws
         sunk with the sun in my eyes,
or my ability to drain long-range trick shots, or the relative ease with which
         I once dominated completely
the small forward who now starts for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Because I long for my body to bound and lunge as it once did, I spin
         one bullshit yarn after the next,
and as I sit on the kitchen floor with a bag of frozen vegetables numbing
         each knee—
too tired for Truth, slaphappy enough to forgive my lies as easily as they float
         from my tongue—

the fast break starts with a fanning out, every one of us covering
         the floor’s length in a matter of strides,
three or four players out in front of the others: the point guard charging down
         the center of things,
and the forwards outpacing him in bowed lines like parenthesis making
         their way toward the basket.

It’s so simple to slip back into memory. My mother is preparing for her
         fifty year class reunion.
I say those things don’t interest me. She says I’ll wish for simpler times.

And so as my mother shakes hands with old friends, now grandparents,
         in a Brooklyn cafeteria,
I think of Nehemiah Rudolph, the center who made the play to start this
         fast break.
And as two aging boomers place their punch on the table before hugging
         and I return the frozen vegetables to the icebox,
Nehemiah puts his head down and storms up the court, trailing the break.

It’s a coach’s dream, the fast break run perfectly: five individuals working
         as one, spacing and the greater good
at the forefront, a perfect civilization hoping to draw the defense away
         from the hoop
so they can reward Nehemiah for his efforts; Nehemiah, the payload
to whom the point guard can dump the ball at the top of the lane and watch
         as his hefty frame
takes one dribble, maybe two, then leaves the ground and lays the ball in
         or flushes it home.