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Jump Ball: A Basketball Season in Poemsby Mel Glenn
Tamba Senesie In Nigeria,
My father is a university professor.
Everyone knows his name.
When he walks down the streets of our village,
Everyone tips their hats to him.
The little children pull at his leg.
The market women give him free oranges.
The old pas ask him many questions.
My father is a visiting university professor.
Nobody knows his name.
When he walks down the streets of the city,
Everyone pushes their way past him.
But my father does not seem to mind.
He walks like a man who knows who he is.
I will never be as distinguished as my father.
I do not possess his intellectual gifts.
But my tall body and broad shoulders
Give me confidence on the basketball court.
With much work and God's blessing,
Everybody will know my name,
In this country.
Parnell Payne I'm a sweet walkin',
mano on the court.
I'm a lane drivin',
big bro on the court.
I'm a head bangin',
all-go on the court.
I'm a cool rappin',
star pro on the court.
Parnell's my name,
You got no game.
Listen up, fool,
I'm takin' you to school.
Team Manager Mighty pecs,
On super abs,
Where I'm at.
Lots of fun,
For the mood I'm in.
Six foot nine,
God, so fine,
Ain't no punks.
Got the best of all jobs, it seems,
Manager of the Tigers basketball team.
DENNIS CARLETON When I made the basketball team,
My father bought drinks
For all the guys down at the garage.
"When he was five I put up a hoop,"
He begins for the hundredth time,
"And practiced with my boy
All summer and nearly all winter."
I am the cup in his mental trophy case.
I am the plaque that hangs on his shop wall.
My permanent seat on the bench
Has not changed my father's dream one bit.
"You could score the game-winning jumper,
Or make the game-saving block," he says brightly.
"Dad, I'm a role player," I say, trying to explain,
"My job is to take a foul,
Or spell a starter for a minute or two."
"Don't talk like that," he says,
"You didn't think youd make the team, I did."
My father still dreams,
Of buzzer-beaters and bragging rights,
And, of course, stories
He can tell the guys down at the garage.
NESTOR PADILLA The bounce of the ball,
The cadence of the crowd,
The pulse of the players,
I hear that salsa beat.
The tiempo of the timbales,
The bang of the bass,
The kick of the congas,
I hear that salsa beat.
I bring the ball up court,
The music pounding in my brain.
Garrett rifles the orange to me,
A straight, true line of melody.
I fake right, go left,
Matching the rhythm that's in my head.
I penetrate the lane, bodies all around,
One step, two steps, get outta my way.
Pivot, twist, back to the circle,
Kick, kick, kick it on out.
Garrett jumps, he hangs, he shoots.
Hands, hands, follow through.
Swish, swish, the sound of the street,
Basketball, basketball, move to the beat.
TYSHEEN STANTON My father doesn't talk to me.
He has worries of his own.
The company he works for
May go out of business soon.
He is too young to retire,
And too old to start over.
Late at night, when I go to the fridge
To grab a glass of milk,
I see him at the kitchen table
Deciding which bills to pay
And which ones to postpone.
He looks up at me as I pass by,
But doesn't say a word.
Putting the milk back,
I see a note held in place
By a small refrigerator magnet
That looks like a little basketball.
It is an announcement from the local paper
Of the day and time of our first playoff game.
I go quietly back to my room,
Being careful not to disturb my father,
Who is still busy with paper and pencil.
My father speaks to me,
Copyright © 1997 by Mel Glenn. Published by Dutton/Lodestar, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
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