Poets Walk: electric space

Poets Walk: "electric space"

Location on Poets Walk Map: 82

A Poem for "Magic" by Quincy Troupe

for Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Donnell Reid & Richard Franklin

take it to the hoop, “magic” johnson,

take the ball dazzling down the open lane

herk & jerk & raise your six-feet, nine-inch frame

into the air sweating screams of your neon name

“magic” johnson, nicknamed “windex” way back

in high school

                                    cause you wiped glass backboards

so clean, where you first juked & shook

wiled your way to glory

                                    a new-style fusion of shake-&-bake

energy, using everything possible, you created your own

space to fly through—any moment now

we expect your wings to spread feathers for that spooky takeoff

of yours—then, shake & glide & ride up in space

till you hammer home a clothes-lining deuce off glass

now, come back down with a reverse hoodoo gem

off the spin & stick in sweet, popping nets clean

from twenty feet, right side

put the ball on the floor again, “magic”

slide the dribble behind your back, ease it deftly

between your bony stork legs, head bobbing everwhichaway

up & down, you see everything on the court

off the high yoyo patter

                                    stop & go dribble

you thread a needle-rope pass sweet home

to kareem cutting through the lane

                                                                        his skyhook pops the cords

now, lead the fast break, hit worthy on the fly

now, blindside a pinpoint behind-the-back pass for two more

off the fake, looking the other way, you raise off-balance

into electric space

sweating chants of your name

turn, 180 degrees off the move, your legs scissoring space

like a swimmer’s yoyoing motion in deep water

stretching out now toward free flight

you double-pump through human trees

                                                                        hang in place

slip the ball into your left hand

then deal it like a las vegas card dealer off squared glass

into nets, living up to your singular nickname

so “bad” you cartwheel the crowd toward frenzy

wearing now your electric smile, neon as your name

in victory, we suddenly sense your glorious uplift

your urgent need to be champion

& so we cheer with you, rejoice with you

                                                                        for this quicksilver, quicksilver,

quicksilver moment of fame

so put the ball on the floor again, “magic”

juke & dazzle, shake & bake down the lane

take the sucker to the hoop, “magic” johnson,

recreate reverse hoodoo gems off the spin

deal alley-oop dunkathon magician passes

now, double-pump, scissor, vamp through space

hang in place

                                    & put it all up in the sucker’s face, “magic” johnson,

& deal the roundball like the juju man that you am

like the sho-nuff shaman that you am, “magic,”

like the sho-nuff spaceman you am

Quincy Troupe, "A Poem for Magic" from Avalanche. Copyright © 1996 by Quincy Troupe. Used with the permission of Coffee House Press, www.coffeehousepress.org.