You and a basketball were amazing.
Both abandoned your identities;
Became one creature,
Dancing across the pavement.
The first time I saw you,
I was getting groceries
And I saw you practicing.
I couldn’t look away.
I sat and watched you dance
Until my lettuce wilted and milk spoiled.
You caught me staring.
I asked you to teach me.
You threw the basketball.
“You can’t learn basketball
If you can’t catch the thing!”
We both learned.
In back-alley half courts,
Among beer bottles and cigarette stubs,
Graffiti and black boys.
You taught me to catch a basketball.
I taught you to sing.
“Are you always singing?”
It makes me happy.
Why don’t you ever sing?
No one in my family ever sang.
I guess we didn’t have anything
That made us happy enough to sing.”
“But now I’ve got my
Anna Anna bo banna,
Banana fanna fo fanna,
Me my mo manna,
I think your singing got too loud for the neighborhood boys,
Because they started watching us;
Glaring at you.
You marched up to them,
Told them to get their own girl,
‘Cause this court was ours.
You said it as easily as you caught basketballs.
Then you started singing about raindrops falling on your head,
Your voice so loud it reached God himself.
You were so loud.
Even when you weren’t singing,
You were too loud for them to ignore,
I’m playing basketball on our court,
Crunching on glass, bumping against graffiti.
None of my shots make it.
But I catch the thing.
I throw and catch,
Let the raindrops fall on my head
—just like your song—
And the rain washes my face clean.
I can feel the black boys glaring at me
Around corners, through windows.
I yelled at them last week,
I’m only catching basketballs,
Just like you taught me.
Maybe if I play in the rain long enough,
My movements will become fluid like yours,
And all I’ll need to think about will be that basketball,
And I won’t hurt so much.
Maybe if I sing loud enough,
My voice will reach up to heaven like yours did,
And you’ll brag to everyone about your girl,
And God will smile.
Maybe I’ll sing too loud someday,
And they won’t be able to ignore me,
Maybe they’ll shoot me too.
- Title: Catching Basketballs
- Artist: Jamie Winters
- Description: A boy at my school commented on my use of the "black boys" in this poem. Please note that this poem is not meant to be racial, I was just writing about a bad neighborhood, which, like it or not, where I live, are usually devoid of Caucasians. They don't shoot the boy because they're African American and he's not, but because they live in a bad neighborhood.
- Date: 02/17/2010
- Tags: catching basketballs adventureaddict love