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October 23, 2015 | Poetry

from Big Man

Michael Marberry

from Big Man photo

 

Hakeem The Dream Sestina

            – Hakeem Olajuwon (1984-2002)

 

Olajuwon’s another name for winner, dream

of Nigeria.  I am a giant from Africa’s giant,

but I am not the center.  Africa is the center

for our species.  Young astronaut, I rocketed

to Houston:  land of cougars, land of blocks

in steel horizons.  To think I was a sure thing

 

then is misremembrance , and I will not dunk

the truth of this in water:  I was not the dream.

I learned to dunk off a chair on the low block;

the rim blocked my layups like a circular giant,

cold and impervious—each bankshot rocketing

off the backboard, each awful hook off-center.

 

And now I wonder:  Where is my truest center?

Where will my story fail its promise?  Can I jam

my life into a poem like a man inside a rocket?

Surely, there will be omissions, even in a dream

as vivid as digital.  I want to name the gigantic

shadows of my past in a light that is unblocked

 

and angelic, but some light longs to be blocked

like a ball.  (I believe it!)  With my feet centered,

I gave back to the game what I could:  my giant

hands helped to shape the frat, Phi Slama Jama.

Glide and I, we moved more lucid than a dream,

broke each team.  We’d race the court to rock it.

 

Houstonian, I wanted only to become a Rocket.

Houstonian, I was the African, keystone-block

to the house that Moses and Sampson dreamed

to build.  A face and name, I became the center:

maker of dynasties.  I was quick to tomahawk

the Admiral, to spin past Georgetown’s Giants.

 

David, with the look of Goliath, I slayed giants

with drop-steps, shimmies, shakes, a rocketed

pass to the corner or key-top, a follow-up dunk

off the rebound, a steal, an authoritative block.

When asked, MJ said I was the greatest center

to ever play the game:  the truth, not the dream

 

of a giant imagination.  Please don’t try to block

this road; don’t slam the door.  I was the center

once.  Once, I was a Rocket named The Dream.

 

Ewing Haiku

            – Patrick Ewing (1985-2002)

 

1.

            Half the year for years,

in New York’s largest garden—

                        hands without a ring.

 

2.

            With eighteen seconds,

Heels slay Hoyas.  His Airness

                        drains a baseline-J.

 

3.

            Beware my fury,

stars, you Barcelona sky—

                        my game, she’s hateful.

 

4.

            New York in springtime—

headbutt:  I accept your terms:

                        I forfeit the peace.

 

5.

            Silk outmuscles me—

The Dream, my giant nightmare.

                        Watch the white bronco.

 

6.

            With eighteen seconds,

Reggie fires like a sniper.

                        Spike eats his rubbish.

 

7.

            Ghosts of game seven—

insomniac.  My finger

                        finish finds rim-back.

 

8.

            My skills got Monstarred.

Like a ball, the camera rolls.

                        Freud questions my sex.

 

9.

            Sixteen years of work

hurts catalogue my body—

                        now, just rows of stats.

 

10.

            Sixteen years of praise

without a cake or banner—

                        this:  a sad haiku.

 

 

The Blues-Ballad of Jayson Williams

            – Jayson Williams (1990-1999)

 

Ya’ll gather ‘round.  Ya’ll listen up.

            Ya’ll gather ‘round to me.

I’ll tell a tale of life that’s whupped

                                    by fortune’s misery,

                                    my own damn misery.

 

My father’s son, I grew up rough;

            my sisters, they all died.

But I was tall and strong and tough,

                                    that hardcourt did I find,

                                    those low-posts did I find.

 

I fought a Dutchman, fought a Chief,

            I wrestled with a Dream.

My enemies found no relief

                                    from me:  no hope of peace.

                                    I never gave them peace.

 

Thus battled big men, waged my wars

            till fate, she wounded me.

The doc said, You can’t play no more...

                                    No more in New Jersey

                                    (East Rutherford, Jersey).

 

So I retired and wrote a book,

            called games for NBC.

But I was far too fond of drink

                                    and prone to anarchy,

                                    my own damn anarchy.

 

On Valentine’s, my last good night

            I killed Gus Christofi.

A cover-up?  A suicide?

                                    A true-blue mystery.

                                    A Who-Knew? mystery.

 

You shot a man on Lovers’ Day!

            You shot a good man down!

The judge said, You got hell to pay!

                                    No way that you’ll rebound!

                                    No way that I’ll rebound.

 

The prison yard was hot enough

            with dead men all around.

I earned my time; I earned their trust.

                                    Forgiveness then was found.

                                    That key to freedom found.

 

Ya’ll gather ‘round.  Ya’ll listen up.

            Ya’ll hear the way it went:

how what we do can ruin us,

                                    another’s life now spent,

                                    my own potential spent—

 

Done schooled a Howlin’ Wolf to sing,

            done sparred with old Ali,

done taught philosophy to King,

                                    done drunk with Stagolee,

                                    undone like Stagolee.

 

 

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