Friday, January 1, 2016

Two Poems by Quincy Troupe

A Poem for Magic

take it to the hoop, “magic” Johnson,
take the ball dazzling down the open lane
herk & jerk & raise your six-feet, nine-inch frame into the air
sweating screams of your neon name
“magic” Johnson, nicknamed “Windex” way back in high school
‘cause you wiped glass backboards so clean,
where you first juked and shook,
wiled your way to glory,
a new-style fusion of shake-&-bake energy,
using everything possible, you created your own
space to fly through--any moment now, we expect your wings
to spread feathers for that spooky takeoff of yours—
then shake & glide, till you hammer home

a clothes-lining deuce off glass
now, come back down with a reverse-hoodoo gem
off the spin & stick in sweet, popping nets, clean
from twenty feet, right side
put the ball on the floor, “magic”
slide the dribble behind your back, ease it deftly
between your bony, stork legs, head bobbing ever-which-way,
up & down, you see everything on the court
off the high, yo-yo patter, stop & go dribble, you shoot
a threading needle rope pass, sweet home to Kareem
cutting through the lane, his skyhook pops cords
now lead the fast break, hit Worthy on the fly now
blindside a behind-the-back pin-point pass for two more
off the fake, looking the other way, you raise
off balance into space sweating chants of your name,

turn 180 degrees off the move, your legs scissoring space
like a swimmer’s yo-yoing motion in deep water
stretching out now toward free flight,
you double-pump through human trees,
hang in place, slip the ball into your left hand
then deal it like a Las Vegas card dealer off squared glass,
into nets, living up to your singular nickname,
singular nickname, so “bad,”
you cartwheel the crowd towards frenzy
wearing now your electric smile, neon as your name

in victory, we suddenly sense your glorious uplift,
your urgent need to be champion
& so we cheer, rejoicing with you,
for this quicksilver, quicksilver,
quicksilver moment of fame,

so put the ball on the floor again, “magic”
juke & dazzle, shake & bake down the lane;
take the sucker to the hoop, “magic” Johnson,
recreate reverse hoodoo gems off the spin
deal alley-oop dunk-a-thon magician passes
now, double-pump, scissor, vamp through space
and hang in place & put it all up in the sucker’s face, “magic”
Johnson, & deal the round ball like the juju man that you am,
like the sho-nuff shaman that you am,

“magic,” like the sho-nuff spaceman you am.

Poem for My Father
For Quincy T. Troupe Sr.

father, it was an honor to be there, in the dugout
with you, the glory of great black men swinging their lives
as bats, at tiny white balls
burning in at unbelievable speeds, riding up & in & out
a curve breaking down wicked, like a ball falling off a table
moving away, snaking down, screwing its stitched magic
into chitlin circuit air, its comma seams spinning
toward breakdown, dipping, like a hipster
bebopping a knee-dip stride, in the charlie parker forties
wrist curling, like a swan’s neck
behind a slick black back
cupping an invisible ball of dreams

& you there, father, regal, as an african, obeah man
sculpted out of wood, from a sacred tree, of no name, no place, origin
thick branches branching down, into cherokee & someplace else lost
way back in africa, the sap running dry
crossing from north carolina into georgia, inside grandmother mary’s
womb, where your mother had you in the violence of that red soil
ink blotter news, gone now, into blood graves
of american blues, sponging rococo
truth long gone as dinosaurs
the agent-oranged landscape of former names
absent of african polysyllables, dry husk, consonants there
now, in their place, names, flat, as polluted rivers
& that guitar string smile always snaking across
some virulent, american, redneck’s face
scorching, like atomic heat, mushrooming over nagasaki
& hiroshima, the fever blistered shadows of it all
inked, as etchings, into sizzled concrete

but you, there, father, through it all, a yardbird solo
riffing on bat & ball glory, breaking down the fabricated myths
of white major league legends, of who was better than who
beating them at their own crap
game, with killer bats, as bud powell swung his silence into beauty
of a josh gibson home run, skittering across piano keys of bleachers
shattering all manufactured legends up there in lights
struck out white knights, on the risky edge of amazement
awe, the miraculous truth sluicing through
steeped & disguised in the blues
confluencing, like the point at the cross
when a fastball hides itself up in a slider, curve
breaking down & away in a wicked, sly grin
curved & posed as an ass-scratching uncle tom, who
like old sachel paige delivering his famed hesitation pitch
before coming back with a hard, high, fast one, is slicker
sliding, & quicker than a professional hitman—
the deadliness of it all, the sudden strike
like that of the “brown bomber’s” crossing right
of sugar ray robinson’s, lightning, cobra bite

& you, there, father, through it all, catching rhythms
of chono pozo balls, drumming, like conga beats into your catcher’s mitt
hard & fast as “cool papa” bell jumping into bed
before the lights went out

of the old, negro baseball league, a promise, you were
father, a harbinger, of shock waves, soon come

Quincy Troupe has published 10 books of poetry: Embryo Poems, 1967-1971, Barlenmir, 1972, 1974; Snake-back Solos: Selected Poems, 1969-1977, I. Reed Books, 1978; Skulls along the River, I. Reed Books, 1984; Soundings, Writers & Readers, 1988; Weather Reports: New and Selected Poems,Writers & Readers, 1991; Avalanche: Poems, Coffee House Press, 1996; Choruses: Poems, Coffee House Press, 1999; Transcircularities: New and Selected Poems, Coffee House Press, 2002; The Architecture of Language, Coffee House Press, 2006; Errançities, Coffee House Press, 2011.

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