Face it, he thinks, there’s more than

a jump shot and high caliber pass

but not much


It’s the basket at the buzzer he will remember

A few forced errors are all he gets


August mornings he wakes the neighbors

with the wham! wham! of a basketball

He who cursed their roaring lawnmowers

rises early now, sleepless again,

scanning the scoreboard for judgment day

in bankruptcy court


They pretend not to notice but stop

waving hello from back yards

Birds broadcast the verdict

from yard to yard:

Fouled out! Fouled out!


He and a few friends raised the hoop

on a birthday bash, four of them or more,

enough room for two on two,

slurring their words and missing the rim


One season tumbled into another:

McArty, local twenty-one champ,

doesn’t have time anymore,

running, running for school board

Ace Rivera, all-state guard,

would rather just drink


He painted his house three times by hand

and stopped the leaks

The trees he planted took fifteen years

to look their age

His time with his children was lost

to traveling, traveling, traveling


Here in the fast break of autumn

he maneuvers from mid-court to the key

opposed by no one but myself,

backs off, switches hands,

pivots into the choreography

of hook shot, sky and rebound


He wonders if neighbors still watch him

from a bedroom window drive across

the centerline into middle age

to execute a textbook layup


Each quarter ends by his own clock

In this world of dribblers and shooters

the closest distance between two points

is over the top


One day when he has gone to buy the bread

creditors will come and post a final score

on the bat and board of his small unthrifty life

He will surrender none of his private strategies

but they can carry off high blood pressure,

bruises, tics, chewed cuticles, gastric distress


In the heat of their full court press

he will signal a calling of time, resolve

to stop competing, be himself again


Even the grubs gnawing the bluegrass will know

he’ll play again in another kind of season