Poet-to-Poet: Edward Hirsch, "Fast Break"

Poet-to-Poet: Edward Hirsch, "Fast Break"



I'm Edward Hirsch this is my poem fast break in memory of Dennis Turner 1946 to 1984 a hook-shot kisses the rim and hangs there helplessly but doesn't drop and for once our gangly starting center boxes out his man and times his jump perfectly gathering the orange leather from the air like a cherished possession and spinning around to throw a strike to the outlet who's already shoveling an underhand past toward the other guard scissoring past a flat-footed defender who looks stunned and nailed to the floor in the wrong direction trying to catch sight of a high gliding dribble and a man letting the play develop in front of him in slow motion almost exactly like a coach's drawing on the blackboard both forwards racing down the court the way that forward should panning out and filling the lanes and tandem moving together his brothers casting the ball between them without a dribble without a single bounce hitting the hardwood until the guard finally lunges out and commits to the wrong man while the power forward explodes past them in a fury take me the ball into the air by himself now and laying it gently against the glass for a layup but losing his balance in the process inexplicably falling hitting the floor with a wild headlong motion for the game he loved like a country and swiveling back to see an orange blur floating perfectly through the net when I was in my 30s my closest friend named Dennis Turner got liver cancer and died in a very short amount of time we'd always he taught with me at my first teaching job at Wayne State University and we've we'd always played hoops together and when I was driving Dennis back to the home after he'd gone to the hospital went in the hospital with a stomachache and he came out with a diagnosis for primary liver cancer we're driving home and he says he didn't know yet but he said if I he suspected if if I have a fatal illness you owe me a poem I said oh great and he said did you try not to make it too romantic oh my god you're giving me requests now you're giving assignment anyway he did die and I did all the poem and I didn't want it to be talked to romantic and so I started thinking about what we had done together and I really decided the news on ER I'd write a poem about basketball and I got the idea that it would be interesting to take a form of a poem and mimic a play from basketball there's instead of writing a sonnet or assess Dean or villanelle all of which I like to write in a traditional form I would make up a form what they're called nonce forms in the form that I would make up would be the whole poem would imitate the way a basketball play would move and then I got the idea that the poem would be all one sentence there's just one role and it would divide up into two line stanzas and it would literally take you through the play from the moment that a player shoots to getting the rebound and well unfold and in this particular play it's actually working perfectly do you know where your coaches draw plays on the blackboard and but then in real life they never work out like that you're always going in a different direction it's never enough no one's in the right place but in this particular play play it's unfolding perfectly almost exactly like the coaches play in the drawing and while you're reading this poem I think our listen to this poem you forget about the part at the beginning in memory of Dennis Turner because you're just following the play of best and then there's the moment in the poem where I think the poem turns where the guy goes up for his shot by himself and lays it gently against the glass and then you go but losing his balance in the process inexplicably falling and I think at that moment you realize this isn't just a play in basketball this is also an elegy and it's the elegy for Dennis Turner and that he's the person then left out by himself and my idea would be he go off and he'd tumble and hit the shot and the end would be a kind of resolution the way you'd get a feeling of closure at the end of a life so that's why it doesn't just make the shot but it's swiveling back to see an orange blur floating perfectly for the net and that's the completion of the two line stands us it's the completion of the poem it's the end of the fast break and it's also cement to suggest the memorial the end something in ritual closure for my dear friend who died you you

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