My God, they call those shorts, he grumbles ruefully to himself;
He muses as to how anyone wearing…well, he’s not sure
If they are overblown Bermudas or women’s culottes,
But back in the day they would have been laughed right off the courts.
It is not, however, his day any longer, as he is constantly reminded
By the baggy-wearing, body-pierced ballers of the current generation,
Fully adorned with swooshes from headband to toe, one of their sneakers
(And he is the only player who still uses that time-worn phrase)
Costing more than his entire outfit: shorts that merit the term,
Old shoes every bit as cracked and faded
As the berm of the back roads in this out-of-the way locale,
A faded and decades-laundered jersey
Bearing the name of a long-defunct auto dealership.
The kids call him “Jumping Toyota.”
Yo, Toyota—no dunkin’ on us tonight, OK? They hoot as they perform
The jump-and-bump as is the current courtside pre-game fashion.
He smiles grimly—I’d be pretty damn thrilled to touch the rim now.
His game is strictly cerebral, horizontal now
The muted, pastel joy of a solid, timely pick or well-thrown bounce pass
Is now his brand of blacktop epiphany,
And he eases up now and then on the offensive end
To provide succor to tendons and ligaments
Which, in spite of his admonitions to himself
That at your age you need to take it easy, dumbass
Will still register their protests a very few hours from now
On the third-shift line at Alcoa, leading to tortured grimaces
And the occasional audible grunt, which will lead to his co-workers to ask him
In a blend of concern and bemusement,
You still playin’ ball?
Once in a while, though, he will still drive hard towards the tin
And, eighteen again for the a snapshot of a moment,
He will stop on a dime and drop a jump shot
Which makes no noise whatsoever
Save for the whispery snap of the chain at the bottom of the net,
The sound every bit the same as it was
Before his knees and ankles went rogue.
Outside the chain-link fence, a young man plugged into his iPod
Leans mock-casually against a great old elm tree
Which bears a large painted orange circle marking its imminent destruction.