Aug 31, 2010

Throwdown

Written by Josh Kalscheur

Read by David Shattuck

The buzz comes from the baseline and the rubble border
to the jungle, here at the village’s one standing rim, the only cement
left with lines. And even the boys hitting short shots know
to hold up, shirtless in the midday sun, and even the girls
stop at three notches in the nearby trees, even the washed-up drunks
jacking threes grow still, let their misses trail off in the high grass.
They know him by the shadows off his shoulders, straight
from the Guam Rec leagues, the legend of cracked backboards
and splintered posts, blow-bys and blocked shots to the bleachers,
basking in the crowds rubbing dust-clouds in the windy seasons,
the air-ball swishes at the no-net courts of Tol, the half-quiet
girls toeing the patched grass, staring, lonely for no one. Here he dribbles
twice to his left and loops a no-look pass to himself, and if there’s a word
for the curves he made, the arc and degrees of space in his wake, lost
in the launch of it all, there was enough jump under the palms of his feet
for all the rolling eyes, all the bandannas flapping when he rushed break-
neck to the basket, the rock grinding to a halt on the touch before take-off,
the overcast background by his head, higher than any man, poster-high,
ladder-high, higher than their fathers’ hands, cupped on his forearm
and cocked like a neck about to bite, the ball ripping over the rim
with sprays of rust-flecks and rotted wood, and a reverb of grunts
makes its way in waves, and all the boys stand up, and all
the almost-dunkers, all the finger-tip rim touchers, the stilted wrists
and lead feet, all the stomping ones, the finesse boys with not-enough
ups or the right kicks, all the tall ones with no hops, all the jammed-thumbs,
they all watch the ball’s slow roll in the gravel, the endless mud from potholes
never patched, praising the last bounces, the previous motion hanging muggy
in the air, seeing the ball lean from lace to lace, still spinning and not stopping —

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