Poems collected from participants in Dave Johnson’s 10*10*10 Video Workshops.
Episode 4: Sports Poems and the Moment
La Pulga Takes a Free Kick
Lio lines up the goalie
like a string about
to unwind, an avalanche
in slow motion
streaming from his eyes
to the far corner post.
And before you blink and miss
history in all its messianic glory,
The Flea has fled
and the ball
rings the back
of the ever-singing net!
Pete Rose Breaks Career Hits Record
He had a dream it would happen this way
Over the shortstop to center field. At first base
Charlie Hustle reigns over Riverfront Stadium
Before the slide into scandal
Before he had to sell his name to make a living
Before my dad, on his deathbed, worried
What would become of him
Ovation fills the field, the stands, the sky
When Pete Rose sets a new record
Unsurpassed to this day
Rafa Nadal Breaks His Opponent
his usual garb,
standing 6 feet from the baseline,
on the damp, clumpy red clay of Roland Garros.
Ready to pounce!
Swaying …..side to side , side to side , only stopping to perform his routine rituals .
First opportunity a bust as the serve flies down the line …..a perfect ace.
Two more chances before opportunity slips away…..
Next one ….. spinning at horse race speed lands close to the line ….
back hand return cross court, then slice down the line, the rally has begun!
Heads turn side to side over and over again with breathes held long and wide when enemy fire lands close to the net.
But a sprint with out reached arm leaves his forehand volley too close to return and the games is won.
Victory for the King of Clay!
A warm embrace at the net, a handshake between two sweating stallions…. a smile with arms held high pointing to the gods of tennis;
the war has been won!
Patrick Ewing in the Elevator
When he stepped
into the elevator,
all lean, mean seven feet of him,
striding those few steps
graceful as any ballet dancer
I’d ever seen,
and nodded slightly, politely
down, smiled slightly,
down at me and the other lady
in that tiny jewelbox
of an elevator
(I was there,
I recall, to choose
a thoughtful gift
for my boss’s wife’s birthday)
and as we ascended
I held my breath,
trying (in that New York way)
not to stare at him,
those cheekbones chiseled
as if of some precious
his beautiful, pale-blue suit,
pristine and pressed,
and when he stepped,
again nodding, slightly, politely,
out onto the 4th floor,
that tiny woman
turned to me and said
and said something
so horrible and hateful
I can’t repeat it here.
We reached my floor
and I turned to her
and in the coldest tone
I think I’ve ever found
I said, “That man—
Do you not know
that that man
is Patrick Ewing?”
Her mouth dropped open.
I stepped out.
The elevator closed.
Thank you so much, Dave Johnson!
Merce Cunningham stands still
on the left side of the stage facing
the exit seems
but the dance does not pause going
through his feet formed
by a lifetime dancing. Between
ending a movement and
starting the next a moment without
beginning and without
Above my contribution to sports.
With best regards
M U S I C
Ellie and I hit the stadium
off of Biscayne Bay
The stars are shimmering
In the deep blue sky
The crowd is anticipating
Leon Russell in concert
He finally arrives, sits down
at the piano
Begins with, A SONG FOR YOU
The lyrics are overwhelmingly poignant
I love you in a place where there’s no space or time
Love you for my life,
You are a friend of mine
A peak moment,
From a huge talent
Keeps you wanting more
From your Friendly Neighborhood Cougar
Raiders and Royals
Before 1991: Bo Jackson
became the first professional All-Star
in two sports
Before 1991: Bo Jackson
high-jumped football huddles
snapped bats over his knee
broke rushing records
(literally) ran up stadium walls
January 1991: Bo Jackson
hip in a routine tackle, tried
again in Chicago, Los Angeles.
Career-ending they <news, fans, sportscasters> called it, “career
Are we still great if no
Hall of Fame
says we’re great.
-Austin S. Lin
The first few notes are the shot that starts the race
The cellist is the first to be lifted from his chair
As the tango starts it’s downhill run
Pulses sprinting now from one player to the next
Each one chasing their instruments
They hold on tight
They must not trip or drop the thread
We are breathless edge-of-seat-sitters
Will the music outrun the players?
The last few frenzied steps
They cross the line leaping up together
We spring to applaud and cheer as one body
Hearts racing, breathless joy
Salutation to Our Sun
Sunlight says hello through the window
Making a parallelogram under her outstretched limbs.
She honors: down, up, upside-down —
Serving asanas for her guest.
Time, silent as heartbeat
Takes vacation in her breath
As new shapes pattern the wooden floor.
Her morning prayer undulates —
The Indian Ocean rises and falls
“Namaste” she whispers
And the orange butterfly
Drops eggs on her head.
Maya Deren at the window
And in looking out, what is it you see?
The other day in quarantine
A meme popped up—
Birds were telling a bird-watcher to
And I had to laugh.
But when I stopped laughing
You were there.
Looking out your window at those
Meshes that caught you up
If only I could feel that way about
Such times as these,
The present moment, the now…
But as you can tell,
I go back to when you lived,
When you looked out that window
Decades before I was born.
And unlike most men,
I cannot lie to myself and say
You were looking at nothing, that
You were waiting around for me
Just like I’m not waiting for you
To live my life,
For who says I ever lived?
You look and I don’t know
What you’re looking at—
I know it’s not the future.
You just want to be free.
And I just want to be free
Sun Ra Turns the Crowd Around
It was so cold and it is never cold in California
The horns wouldn’t play in Alice Coltrane’s band
And all the fancy Oakland people were tired of it all
And poured up the aisles in the late night dark
But Sun Ra had a wha-wha pedal
It was like a whip
It whipped that crowd
Drove into their ears and pulled
Sharper than a siren’s call
It made them bark and turn
And pour back down like howling lava
To the edge of the stage
As if the earth were opening up, radiant inside,
And they with scorching breastbones were staring in.
When I first joined the sidelines
I felt incensed by parents yelling “tackle him!”
As if they were encouraging their kid to take someone out
Under the radar, in what should be a civil, considerate sport
Over time I learned the lingo
And could Express my displeasure with the ref
In tune with those rabid dads
I discovered that Center-mid
The Brains of the Field
Ever calculating, knows the location of each player
Orchestrates the game with shrewdness, cunning and control
Every play passes through his turf
Doesn’t steal the show;
Let’s others take the glory
But holds the key to success
That Center Mid is my high-school son
Who taught me to love
The game of soccer
after Diane Ackerman’s poem, “Patrick Ewing Takes a Foul Shot”
Ben Gibbard Confides He is an Alcoholic on Live Stream From Home
in this moment I witness a person and his multitudes
his past selves and their multitudes and all of his multitudes’
past selves and all of his multitudes’ multitudes
magnify converge amplify
whether simple line segments or indefinite rays maybe
it doesn’t come down to this single point the supposed center of it all
maybe there are several points on his grid which contribute to his plane of existence
where he can style his hair throwback early 2000’s indie rock and no it’s not obsolete
and yes the grays on his chin do elaborate his boyish smile
it is in this moment where I witness the reveal
of a person’s Achilles heel and my desire to shield it
I just wanted to thank Dave Johnson for doing those wonderful 1010s and I am glad to hear he will be doing more of the same (If i understand correctly) : i sometimes have trouble accessing them in a timely fashion though.
Cheers and stay safe!
Ellen Pober Rittberg.
See poem below: poem written in response to Dave’s Patrick Ewing Sports Poem prompt
On Watching Jackson Pollock Paint or,
Lives of an Artist
I’m cheating here. I knows his backstory
How he killed himself and two people while driving drunk
but let’s pretend for a moment that he’s just Jackson Pollock
maneuvering his body through space, the hand flipping shaking conniving while jazz played if not free form then the latest form,
the drips like buckets upended
the process, deliberative yet
come what may,
chance and enamel paint,
the unprimed canvas
a biological imperative of sorts
and in that moment
he is not fully human
he is an instrument
and he knows it
and unfazed, he will lead his life
in the cold water house in the backwater beautiful East End where sky opens,
an egg spreading across the horizon
nothing vertical to obscure his view.
He was deeply immoral, yes, which
artist do not have to be
when they are not painting,
his artist wife Lee Krasner largely
His greens work best for me.
they make a path.
I follow them into the within.
They serve as underpainting
of a sort.
It is where I find if nothing else,
A path to meaning.
— Ellen Pober Rittberg
Stephen Curry – In the moment he takes his shot
Catch a glimpse of his spark and you know
all possibility is in the house.
in grateful surrender of everything else,
I join the ride and stake my hope.
all else is suspended.
the human torch is heating up.
take me away, Stephen Curry.
Given an inch of daylight,
he’ll light up the sky.
a roar so proud and fierce and true,
the entire Dubnation is transported,
collective in ecstatic pride.
In the moment he takes his shot.
Just a speck of room is all that he needs
to step up and let it fly.
in his smile, determination, commitment and joy,
each possession is precious.
nothing left on the floor,
he gave it all he had that day.
It would be enough to keep it on the court, but no.
showing up for his team, the world as his team,
stands a man who steps up and shares.
for the love of hoops and the game of life,
inspiration most surely applies.
In the moment he takes his shot.
Each possession a lifetime,
take a shot. Take your shot.
swish it. or pass it. or blow it all to hell.
hopes stoked with muscle of every shot that came before.
all past is present in the moment you take your shot.
It’s really all play when passion flames the way.
our team is our body.
no cell without its role.
find your rhythm and take your shot. take your shot.
maybe we’ll swish it, maybe we’ll miss it.
or maybe box out a rebound,
but don’t let them steal it.
it’s not over till the buzzer says it’s so.
Dub Nation, Oakland CA
St. Louis, 1964
Stealing bases, hearts
I’m off from school
Into the collective greatness
that was — and here,still is,
A people cheering, St. Louis —
And beat them damn Yankees.
Meghan Swims the Butterfly
About my size (small) but stronger,
hungrier, and fresh out of the cocoon of adolescence
she explodes off the blocks
her wing span sweeping the entire deck
in a rainbow
sparklers shooting from her
kick kick pull kick kick pull
Even I, from a body length behind,
had to marvel at the natural wonder,
her splash-less grace
Rodgers in the Two Minute Warning
No time outs left,
breath misting his vision,
the clamor of Lambeau in his ears.
Aaron scrambles left, dances right,
Julius Peppers right in his lap.
He spots the target, steps us,
rainbows high and deep into the end zone,
and delivers the package into Cobb’s
outstretched hands, sending Cobb
catapulting into the stands, gripped in the
mittened embrace of the roaring fans.
For Chaka Khan
Chaka doesn’t just sing
She was probably the horns
That crashed down the walls of Jericho
She was the voice of 1,000 Black Panthers
Chanting as one for freedom
She was the soaring siren calling
The slave ships back home to her shores
She was the angel in the ear of Louis
Amrstrong as he played his trumpet
She was the fire in the voice of every
Black woman who knew they deserved
To be heard
You don’t ignore a voice like that
A voice that could shatter the sky
And bring down the heavens
The Olympic diver on the high board
Feet, paused between board and air
then lifting their arms
arms open in sacrifice
for a brief moment
in mid air
at the last moment
Son Sun Game On
When the sun is down
The game is on
The ball and my son
Flights and run
Towards the moon on
Together in the same round
Hop the football game on
—Olivier from Cannes France
Savion Glover Melts the Floor
The greatest tapper of our time
A whisper in the dim light of the stage
And with just one tiny shuffle he animates
Feet impossibly articulating creating polyrhythms washing into open hearts
Arms angled followed by reaching, lacy hands
Corn rows flinging, floating, flying
Sweat beading, ricocheting into patterns reflecting movements that defy human capability
Shuffle, kick, brush, hop
Fast, furious, soul bending, mind blowing
Hearts beating, tears flowing
Savion melts the floor
Spiderman Shoots A Web
It’s white and comes from
the hand, from these two
fingers. He needs a lot of web
to beat the bad guys
and to make everything sticky,
and to trap. He shoots a web
into outer space, and then
he comes back down
and his face has two
big, white eyes.
But, I am Spiderman.
I am very, very strong.
—Jacqui Andre Fabri-Baksh (Age 3.5+)
Colin Kaepernick Takes A Knee
And the president says
his mother is a bitch.
My son also wants to wear
a red spandex suit, to try
to stop the bad guys.
What kind of bitch
does that make me?
My son also has giant
curls, that duck under
his helmut, I have Loved
since he was an unfinished
animal, a swimmer
inside myself. I’d make
a museum to keep him in,
to quarantine the art he is,
to preserve him from injury,
illness, or villainous smoke.
I will wear the name
Bitch, on my neck
if I have to.
—Erica Miriam Fabri
lorde settles in my speakers
voicing a call
with a low cool coo,
like fog seeping from a shadow,
drawing wails from my lungs,
presiding over wild exorcism,
singing a forgotten song,
wrapping tired throats in
minors chords, frail bodies,
in gentle chimes, in medicine,
for a fevered adolescence.
“Kerri Strug Takes Home Gold”
“Kerri Strug is in trouble….”
“3 falls for the Americans…”
Kerri landed on a fall,
but does not show what she is thinking.
We all want to make our parents proud,
and give the people who believe in us a reason to.
How many girls like her are not really bad at heart
but want her to fail?
Competition has an ugly truth,
but also boils and brews
passion, drive, and discipline
inside a believer.
Does any of this cross Kerri’s mind?
She raises her hands again
with the grace of a wounded sparrow
and boldness and strength of an eagle.
She runs towards the vault as if chased by fire.
She is catapults
The music of held breaths is scandalous.
Hello air we meet again.
She is relinquished as a Barbie moved by the careful invisible hands of an invisible Goddess.
There is an obvious trust in the space of nothing.
She lands and stands tall.
Until she can’t anymore.
The crowd roars as she soars into this role of hero taking home Gold.
At 16 she is like a newborn mother
without the epidural
Confounded by wonder and achievement of her body,
who just gave birth
to a child named
—Karen Pangantihon @kjpangantihon
Kirby Puckett Keeps the Dream Alive
After Diane Ackerman
his left leg clicks: a hammer
slams into the batter’s box
laden with gunpowder—
his barrel of an upper body
uncorks in a flash
blasting forward a sliver of tree
forever altering a baseball’s
a series’ trajectory
He steps back to the baseline
Shuttlecock in his hand.
Ready to serve it towards
His opponent. His Racquet
Held tightly, aiming at
The forecourt opposite him.
He balances on the balls of
His feet, throwing the
Shuttlecock high. With
A flick of his wrist it drives
To the forecourt across the net,
As a rally ensues.
A net shot, push shot and
A smash occurs…back and
Forth, no quarter given or taken.
A flick, a drop, and hairpin net shot
Goes on and on, until he focuses on
The Almighty kill shot. That his
adversary misses. Game, Set,
GIRL BLUE, SINGER-SONGWRITER
Her singing always sends me sweeping,
Like the ride I took in a precision-tuned helicopter
Over the Grand Canyon–
A sudden lifting graced with awe,
Thickened with a gut-level eddy
And then a thrilling fling
Past the rim-of-no-easy-return,
A hurting heart’s frontier;
And then the launching over deathless landscapes
As the lowest note rumbling
from a concert French horn;
And then three or four minutes of
Expansion, narrowing, wheeling,
A seemingly endless tumult
Of nerve-strung feelings;
And finally the roll-back reverse
Homecoming to a soft plateau,
Landing skids settling,
Rotor blades winding down,
Instruments turned off.
Her voice coming to rest
And passengers arrested by
The reverb, the full wonder of it.
—Therese L Broderick @PoetTwitter
Roman Reigns Gets Bathed in Dog Food
Roman a.k.a. The Big Dog
giant in the ring
He’s all fired up
like the campfire my grandson brags about
during summers at Fresh Air campsites.
My dad is all fired up too.
And so are the fans in the packed Smackdown arena.
Sitting on edge of seats, pounding thighs, yelling, “C’mon,”
“Superman Punch him, Big Dog.”
Roman grabs opponent by the arm
Swings him across the ring and over the top rope
Like sanitation men toss our worn love seat
In mouth of garbage truck.
The Big Dog takes a little slamming
He’s huffing, puffing, sweating, rubbing his forehead,
Contemplating his next move
And soon back on the top of his game
All fired up again.
The flames are higher, hotter.
Superman Punch is about to land and take opponent
Down. The bell rings. Referee raises the big dog’s hand
But the sweet taste of victory soon becomes the bitter taste of embarrassment
As the big dog gets attacked by the king and his court of ten.
They chain the big dog to ring post
And bathe him head to feet in dog food.
And my daddy can’t lay settled any longer
He raises up from his resting place and yells out,
“You dirty bums. You dirty bums. Do something referee…”
I loved when daddy got excited in those days when I thought wresting was real.
I tell dad to calm down.
I tell him wrestling has changed so much since 1997 and that it’s
Really Friday night entertainment today.
In loving memory of the fun times with daddy,
I await the moment that he and I would come together again
And watch the event where the big dog seeks revenge
And bathes the king in dog food.
Dressed in my pathetic
green gym suit
adorned with my moniker
in junior high
I stepped up to the net
this lovely white sphere
in my hands
I smashed the volley ball
over the net
It was exhilarating
Such force at play
Splendid youthful energy
Francesca Hayward Steals the Show
In the midst of the absurdity –
of humans in CGI cat costumes –
she pauses, as Victoria,
limbs of helium twisting
into a balloon White Cat
her leg floats up, out,
and then, as if to detach
from her slender hip
extends behind her body
her back a willow’s trunk
her face a cool smooth pool
a moment of reflection
in the whirlwind
—Gina Turner @gatwoman
The Yankee Clipper
He glides like a ghost
In the center of hallowed
Ground now gone. His movement
Parts the air without a ripple as his
Glove rises with the certainty of
Success and the ball nestles in
It’s pocket like a lost fledgling
The rope untangles
As each girl takes an end
Moving in coordination
The rope rises & twirls
Gracefully she rises off her feet
And dances over the rope
—Barbara G. Harris
Ernie Banks Hits a Home Run
Nobody expects much from the Cubs
who end up in the cellar as regular as autumn,
but when #14 steps up to the plate
fans get ready to cheer.
He’s no Babe Ruth or even Mickey Mantle,
but they don’t call him Mr. Cub for nothing.
When a fast ball crosses the plate
looking like a temptress flaunting her wares,
he whips those slender wrists and
launches the ball towards left field.
The Bleacher Bums jump to their feet.
The ball climbs, climbs, climbs
suspended in perennial hope.
As it clears the ivy covered wall
Jack Brickhouse yells, “Hey, Hey” and
the fans electrify Wrigley Field.
Ernie circles the bases wearing his Mr. Sunshine smile.
He can’t bring his team any closer to
the World Series, or even a pennant,
But today—today he’s a champion.
Simone Biles Sticks the Landing
Biles stands tall,
twisting her hips,
shifting her head
left and right,
as she struts down the mat.
The gymnast jumps
into the air
like a perfect ballerina in mid-air,
to the tune of “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce,
before rolling into a stylized reclining pose.
And just as you blink
and almost miss
the art of her movement
—she is up on her feet again,
positioning her arms like a drum majorette.
Then Biles takes a running leap
and uses her hands to spring
into a backward flip.
She turns her powerful frame
at a 45-degree angle,
rotating over and over again,
like planet Earth,
while she spins forward,
like the wheels on a tire.
She defies the rules of physics,
until finally, breaking the suspense,
she comes back down towards the mat
and sticks the landing!
A Defeat-Able Team
Every four years, if we make it
our chests expand at full lung capacity,
like proud eagles or condors
ready to witness our courageous men
soar with purpose and passion
standing tall with acrobatic legs
swaying left, right, front and back
trembling the grass with each pass
of a perfect sphere.
It rotates faster than a spinning top
up and down it goes, non- stop.
Our breaths quiet the air
our orbits fixed on the revolving sphere.
Off its axis, it goes
deafening the chants.
Our hearts are cornered
on a tight line time stops
when thunder strikes the shot
to place the beat back to our hearts
Another chance for a piercing goal is missed.
Caught in a fishing net.
Our dream is on.
—Maria Paz Dominguez
Ian Curtis Got Lost in His Own World
a tragic brilliance,
as he moved through the stage,
through the world,
unable to get through…
but his voice echoes
through my veins,
through my dreams,
unable to convey…
—Jade Fassbinder @jadefassbinder
Willie Goes Over the Limit
It’s early for the band
but the audience has
waited in line and now
there’s a crowd at World Café.
It’s a live show and on stage
Willie is to the side
and Lukas is in the center.
They open with Just
through the set.
When the time’s up,
time for the next
musician, there are signals —
it’s a live recording
and they’re on the air —
Willie keeps on going.
It’s his finale —
and the radio host just throws
up her hands and laughs,
dances off stage, sings along to
Roll Me . . .
I watch sculptured men
hulk onto the gridded field
bouncing single-file lighter than air.
A steady palette of red team pads
and pure white tights deliver winning
tattoo icons: rainbow dragon that breath fire,
black lightning bolts circle biceps.
Then the blue tights topped with canary helmets
stream onto the far end field as if from Plato’s cave.
How can they win?
All buttocks then knock together like twin dumplings,
helmets fringed by symbolic neè immortal ‘dos:
the dreads the mohawks the streaked blonde Thor
like Samson, Hercules, Caesar himself
blood ready to skirmish in a Coliseum
that roars with ready thumbs, cupped teeth
and glorious garlic fries.