Vivian C. Shipley
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The Poet as Basketball Player:

Knocked down, I elbowed back under the rim, ready

as Bill Russell to rebound 50 times or more to stay

in the game. Splay-legged like Dennis Rodman, I’d

learned from rejection slips that I had to grab

with both hands, cannonball a pass. Blocking

anyone who tried to whip the ball off my head, trip

me like a mark, halfcourt, I swiveled, keeping other

hot shots off balance. Hitting that turnaround J,

token pressure, I got in the other guy’s shirt to tip

the ball to myself. Taught to echo Stevens, Eliot,

even Frost, I mimicked Scottie Pippen’s quick release

jumper in the lane, Ron Harper’s downtown heaves,

even the slo-mo pick-and-roll of John Stockton

and Karl Malone. I could never heave hard enough

to break through glass, but I was a hit at slams with

bellowing breaths like Willis Reed at the foul line.

If Bill Russell hadn’t been on the Celts’ bench

resting after wind-mill hooks, he would’ve cackled

jai alai garbagetime. I had sense enough not to try

imitating Michael Jordan’s fall-away shot in the lane,

tongue-dangling drive to the hoop or ass-wagging

back-to-the- basket pivot. Booed off Dodge’s stage,

I lived through Luc Longley’s Keatonesque pratfall,

but why go there? No Penny Hardaway, but a Kentucky

hardboot, I never walked the ball up slow as a mule;

I dished out guff from editors, from Adolph Rupp.

Even so, I’ll never end my career as Michael Jordan

did with a move like Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn,

winning his sixth N.B.A. title, causing his defender

to stumble, mystified: What men or gods are these?


The Poet as Hag Moth

No strength or ferocity to protect myself

against being eaten alive by mice, shrews,

or poets masquerading as robins and canaries,

garter snakes, weasels even foxes, can snap me

up in a second. A witness protection program

is what I need, to live in disguise like a hag moth

caterpillar. Irritating spines for protection,

so ugly nobody would give me a second look,

on a car hood or behind a podium, I’ll appear

rough, a piece of bark unless a hand brushes

me off and its brain registers: soft flesh. At first,

workshop drama queen, decked out as a dark

brown larva, eight long meaty appendages will

cover my back with a backward twist like

dreadlocks or a disheveled wig. In fact, they

are muscular hooks covered with feathery black

stinging hairs. Two rows of soft suckers for legs

will provide the illusion of being a push-over

while I sniff up and notebook details, titles,

similes from other poets. Grown, a female

during the day, to blend in, I will fly on cocoa

colored wings. A balloon for an abdomen,

my hind legs sprouting brilliant yellow tufts,

anyone would swear I am carrying honey, pollen

sweet, compact as a sonnet. If I stay camouflaged

as a bee, even in apple blossom metaphors, I might

be ignored during class critiques. Predators, even

editors, don’t mess with stingers. Switch hitting,

a male hag moth by night, I poetry slam at Bar 13,

Courting Risk, Accentos, then bomb at The Shrine

and Inspired Word. Not like the other poets flitting

around with their flat scales shimmering in shades

of Indian silk, my verse like my wings will be clear,

my body wasp shaped. No one is interested in a wasp.



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© Copyright, 2014, Vivian C. Shipley.
All Rights Reserved.