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
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
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.