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Fast Break

In Memory of Dennis Turner, 1946-1984

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 is already shoveling

an underhand pass 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 forwards should, fanning out

and filling the lanes in tandem, moving
together as brothers passing 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, taking the ball into the air

by himself now and laying it gently
against the glass for a lay-up,

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.

—Edward Hirsch

from Wild Gratitude, 1990

Copyright 1990 by Edward Hirsch.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Knopf from Wild Gratitude. Copyright 1986 by Edward Hirsch. For further permissions information, contact Michael Greaves, Alfred A. Knopf, Publishers, 299 Park Avenue, New York, NY, 10171, phone 212-751-2600, fax 212-572-2593.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Edward Hirsch (1950- ) is the president of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. His nine poetry collections include Gabriel: A Poem (Knopf, 2014). Hirsch was educated at Grinnell College and the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a PhD in folklore.

Learn more about Edward Hirsch at The Poetry Foundation..