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Austin

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he was this little kid
with a hyphen mouth
and swallowing eyes.
when I rolled the basketball over to him
he held it like a soap bubble that might pop into oblivion.
but it was half as big as him and his
knees bent with bearing it.
it was a sweating summer afternoon
late August and
i didn't know where his mother was.

he came a little closer to
give back the ball.
he asked could i dunk and i said no.
he said his cousin did and that
his cousin could jump high enough to clear
the fence that held the courts in and
his cousin was in college. the kid asked me
if i was too and i had to say no,
i was just fourteen.
he looked disappointed
so i shot the ball
from behind the three-point arc
and it hugged the net as it dropped.
i could see in his eyes that i was back
in the realm of the big people
who did things like dunk and
go off to faraway places for school
and become astronauts and writers and plumbers
and maybe could fly too because
why the hell not?
i told him his turn.
we were just two people on a summer day.

he couldn't get the ball
to the basket of course
but his shot (a concentration of all the strength
in his reed thin body)
made a pretty arc. i put it in
for him.

He told me he lived
“ten miles away”
and he'd walked here all alone to go
swinging.
Swinging was his favorite
thing in the world





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