poem: saudade (there are no fouls in streetball)

When shooting
at night,
in that light rain,
the rules change.
Your hands find the ball before your eyes will.
You aren’t built for the nocturne.
Your tongue is not the snake’s; it leads you nowhere.

The streetlights only help from a distance,
as when the slithering orange pierces your glasses,
it bends into unwanted stars.

The ball is wet. There is beauty in an acknowledged
lack of grip. Form over friction:
Grief is a team game you practice alone.

When you insist on shooting a three,
you will not see the ball’s fate,
but you can hear the clank. Hear
the swish.

And the feet.
There is no wandering here.
To a watcher’s flashlight-ed eye,
you may appear to stumble, stutter.
This is rain choreography.
Night toes en pointe.

And then the game.
You invent the stiff-backs,
the drag-footers, shit-talkers,
the slick and quiet foul-ers.
You take no free throws. You dance em down.
You don’t “settle” for the jump shot. You kill with it.
This, at least, you have earned.

At some point, you look up, as if her ghost
has nothing to do in the ether but watch.

You remember shooting on this court earlier,
in the baby dusk, you at one hoop,
another dude at the other,
til he leaves after announcing, I don’t do lightning.

You stay after this, wondering how a lick
of electric could feel to an already fried body.

Three years after her death,
I can swish a triple with my left hand.
This comes from practice.
From sublimating fury.
From a music
that on this night,

floods the body,
through a reverb of rain.


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