Death by Basketball by Frank X. Walker

Before and after school
he stood
on a milk crate
eyeballed the mirror
and only saw wayne turner
at tournament time

a third grader
just off the bus
barely four feet
off the ground
he dropped his books
sank a j’
from the top of the key
and heard the crowd roar
beat his man off the dribble
with a break yaneck
and slammed himself
on the cover of a box
of wheaties

he was out there
every night
under a street light
fighting through double picks
talking trash
to imaginary body checks
‘you can’t hold me fool’
fake right
‘this is my planet’
drive left
‘is the camera on’
reverse lay-up
‘that’s butter baby’
finshing with a trey
from downtown, swish!
I’m inna zone t’night
more than a little
light in the ass
hands so small
the ball almost dribbled him
he formed his own lay-up line
in the bluegrass
wildcat jersey
hanging like a summer dress

on a court made bald
from daily use
and instead of writing
his spelling words
he signed a contract
he could barely read
inked a commitment
in big block letters
to the NBA
and NIKE
scribbled superstar in cursive
with a fat red pencil
and practiced his
million dollar smile
not his multiplication table
thinking of how many
chocolate milks
he could buy
with his signing bonus
or his all-star game
appearance fee
after recess

another shooting
another tragic death
another little genius
who will never test out
of a dream
that kills legitimate futures
every night
under street lights
wherever these products
are sold. . .

From Affrilachia, copyright 2000 by Frank X. Walker, All rights reserved.

Category: Rituals: Music, Dance, Sports,