Between Assassinations And Black Maid: Two Poems by Alan Shapiro

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Between Assassinations And Black Maid: Two Poems by Alan Shapiro

by Alan Shapiro
Southern Cultures, Vol. 10, No. 4: Winter 2004

"What was your last name, where did you live?"

Between Assassinations
Old court. Old chain net hanging in frayed links from the rim,
the metal backboard dented, darker where the ball
for over thirty years has kissed it, the blacktop buckling,
the white lines nearly worn away. Old common ground
where none of the black men warming up before the basket
will answer or even look in my direction when I ask
if I can run too, the chill a mutual understanding,
one of the last we share, letting me join them here,
if nowhere else, by not letting me forget I don’t belong.
Old court. Old courtesy, handshake, exchange of names,
in the early days of bussing, between assassinations,
before our quaint welcoming of them had come to seem,
even to ourselves, the haughty overflow of wealth
so thoroughly our own we didn’t need to see it.
Old beautiful delusion in those courtly gestures
that everything now beyond our wanting just to play
was out of bounds, and we were free between the white lines
of whatever we assumed we each of us assumed.

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