Ballplayer

poet Evie Shockley
by Evie Shockley


i cop a squat on a squared-off log,
to watch you ball on the community center court.
butt numb, i shift my weight

and shake mosquitos from my ankles,
but never take my eyes off the game.
yours follow the orange orb, your pupils
twin, brown moons reflecting its light.

your play is wild efficiency,
you are a four-pronged magic wand,
waving, as if agentless, in all directions at once.
an opponent dribbles the ball - now he sees it,

now he don't, it's gone, flown,
and you've given it its wings.
you are one-eighth of the shrieking rubber,

one-eighth of the growls and calls. you are
the delicious assist, the unerring pass.
you spread your skills out before me, a peacock
among pigeons, as if to say "all eyes on me,"

and make it worth my while.
a chill trails the sun west like a long, clammy train,
crawls over me and my makeshift bench,
over the emptying playground,

but stops at the edge of the concrete,
where eight men burning keep it at bay,
the way torches smoking around a patio

ward off insects. twilight rises like dark steam
from the dewy grass, but you don't see it.
the ball still lights the court
until the winning jumper sinks and puts it out.

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