it starts with the vultures.
an empty playground.
asphalt sky. always
the vultures. one perched
on each rim. feathers fan
backboards. it always starts
here. I bring the ball up left
handed, just like you. left
handed, the way you taught me.
cross half court. stutter step.
reverse pivot and pull. point
your elbow at the bucket, boy;
and follow through. always follow
through. I square my body, gather
my legs, then lock into eyes eager to peck
the brittle bones of my lay ups.
shot clock dies, a whistle blows.
I must begin again. Out of bounds,
ball in hand. scan the court
for an open man. daddy,
did you hear? the Lakers got Shaq.
think this’ll be our season?
no one to pass to. nowhere to throw. boy,
my lungs are blacker than the grooves
in that there ball you got. It ain’t no more
seasons. a buzzer sounds.
I begin again, a blacktop Sisyphus
in sweatsocks, pushing
upcourt. I can’t see the clock,
but I know it’s there.
It ain’t no more seasons. Just the ticking
time and that rock you squeezing.
Once, my afro was bigger than my body.
You held me over head
with a ball in my hand and laughed, said
now we both got some sun
to hold onto. I pushed the ball off the tips
of my fingers, and watched it
ride the rim like a drunken wallenda.
those were the days
before black wings. beaks. birds
tracing eights on skies
as cracked and as lovely as this
concrete that keeps me from falling.