Playground, cement wall,
men & women crowded against
a chain link fence, watching
three Latinos and a white guy
between gray lines.
Gold jewelry, shorts, cut-off T-shirts;
one slighter, bare chested, long arms.
White guy: beefy, no neck, broad
“Cmon Ricky!” The one with skin like
glistening walnut goes still, crouches,
The white guy returns, fast off the wall,
picked clean in the air by Rickys partner,
exploding back, smashed, grunt, ball wide
point, Rickys team.
“Cmon, go crazy, Ricky!”
“Another comeback,” somebody says.
Ricky servesplayers shift, both hands
left, right, left, like heavyweights,
sickeningly hard. White guys partner
hits low to the corner; Superman
couldnt have gotten to it.
Heads shake, drink from bottles.
Ricky closes on his partner, directs him,
slaps his arm.
“17-15,” the ref says, thin, older,
face impassive under a baseball hat.
He squeezes the blue ball,
throws it twice easily against the wall,
checks it again, tosses it to the white guy.
No one talks.
Serve goes to Ricky, hit back at white guy
too fast to see, let alone dodge. White guy pivots
like a bullfighter, somehow blocks it soft and low.
Rickys partner goes slow motion
full length on the cement, cant reach it.
White guy sneers, serves fast at Ricky,
challenging. Ricky drops it to the other guy.
Weak return. Rickys partner puts it away.
Back and forth.
Ricky hits a winner, exhales, pounds
his chest three times with the ball,
looks up at a cloudy sky,
then ties, 20 all, with a lucky bounce.
“Only fucking way you win,” white guy shouts.
“Ricky dont speak English,” a watcher calls out.
Ricky walks a tight circle, small smile,
let him talk, give the man something.
Lethal blur, percussion, shoes squeak,
over suddenly. Rickys team wins.
He pumps one arm.
No taunts. No regret.
People nod, satisfied.
(from: On The Road To Dharamsala)
John Moncure Wetterau