Poetry

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Basketball

by Lionel E. Deimel

  

A small park was next to the new house—

A two-level affair with swings below and basketball court above—

An invitation to exercise.

 

I had a basketball from a cereal promotion—

A black and white ball with red lettering—Basketball goal

An embarrassment to a real player.

 

Basketball was never my game;

My sports were Scrabble and Monopoly.

Running bored me.

 

But I saw an opportunity,

A possible antidote to a spreading midriff,

A chance to hone a new skill.

 

I began with free throws,

Standing at the line and concentrating,

Launching the ball hopefully.

 

I considered the physics,

The precise point on the backboard I needed to hit

To drop the ball into the hoop.

 

I got lots of exercise

Chasing the ball as it bounced off the backboard,

Or the rim, or the fence.

 

I tried other shots—

Close in, from either side, from far away.

I played Scrabble better.

 

Most throws were right-handed,

Though I was willing to try anything that worked—

Left-handed, two-handed, underhanded.

 

There were rare successes.

You can’t miss all the time,

Just often.

 

I reconsidered the angle

And recalculated the location of my target,

The flip of the fingers.

 

I persisted, as weeks passed.

I watched the clouds and the airplanes writing bright lines across the darkening sky,

But I saw few baskets.

 

Perhaps physics wasn’t the answer.

Despite my physics degree, I wasn’t a good billiards player, either.

Time for Plan B.

 

Using it seemed to offer a greater margin for error,

But relying on the backboard wasn’t working well.

I aimed for the basket.

 

I imagined a point in space,

One just above the hoop center—

My new aiming point.

 

My movement had been frugal—

My body mostly still to avoid disturbing my arm motion—

Perfect economy.

 

But now I stopped calculating.

I thought only of the point above the basket.

I crouched slightly.

 

I jumped into the air.

My arm shot upward as my whole mind and body aimed for the basket.

Swish!

 

 

       

 

I had never understood how basketball players do what they do or why, with a little practice, I couldn’t score baskets at a rate at least marginally above the threshold of embarrassment. “Basketball” describes how I gained some insight into these phenomena. This poem was written in May 2001 and consistently has  been the most viewed poem on my Web site. I cannot tell, of course, if people are actually reading it, but what is clear is that there is a demand for poems about basketball!

— LED 10/5/2005

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