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By B. H. Fairchild

The heavy bodies lunge, the broken language

of fake and drive, glamorous jump shot

slowed to a stutter. Their gestures, in love

again with the pure geometry of curves,


rise toward the ball, falter, and fall away.

On the boards their hands and fingertips

tremble in tense little prayers of reach

and balance. Then, the grind of bone


and socket, the caught breath, the sigh,

the grunt of the body laboring to give

birth to itself. In their toiling and grand

sweeps, I wonder, do they still make love


to their wives, kissing the undersides

of their wrists, dancing the old soft-shoe

of desire? And on the long walk home

from the VFW, do they still sing


to the drunken moon? Stands full, clock

moving, the one in army fatigues

and houseshoes says to himself, pick and roll,

and the phrase sounds musical as ever,


radio crooning songs of love after the game,

the girl leaning back in the Chevy’s front seat

as her raven hair flames in the shuddering

light of the outdoor movie, and now he drives,


gliding toward the net. A glass wand

of autumn light breaks over the backboard.

Boys rise up in old men, wings begin to sprout

at their backs. The ball turns in the darkening air.

 


B. H. Fairchild, “Old Men Playing Basketball” from The Art of the Lathe. Copyright © 1998 by B. H. Fairchild. Reprinted with the permission of Alice James Books.

Source: The Art of the Lathe (Alice James Books, 1998)

Poet Bio

B. H. Fairchild was born in Houston, Texas. Throughout high school and college he worked for his father, who was a lathe machinist. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas, and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Tulsa. Many of his poems take place in the Midwest and contain a blue-collar sensibility. Fairchild’s work has also been published in The New Yorker, and The Paris Review, as well as numerous other publications.

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