April is national poetry month, a time to celebrate the beauty and the power of words. Join us and North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti as he shares poems and posts throughout the month. He’ll feature works by other poets, share his thoughts on the works and his travels during the month. He’s also going to integrate Literary Trails of North Carolina with his own travels in order to share points of interests and tidbits from one of the three guidebooks written by Georgann Eubanks for the N.C. Arts Council on the state’s literary heritage.
Don’t forget to post your comments and reactions, or tell us about your favorite poet and poem!
To kick National Poetry Month off here is Joe-Joe by Joseph Bathanti:
It’s late, late in the game.
We’re playing Canevin in our gym,
a bandbox, so small the people
sitting on the bottom bleachers
squat to keep their fee off the in-bounds.
Less than twenty seconds and Central’s down one.
Joe Costanzo’s bringing the ball up.
Coach Killian’s on his feet;
every kid in the school can do
an imitation of his voice.
Joe-Joe loves having the ball,
can’t keep his hands off it, really,
and the outside shots is is trope —
a kind of two-hand, knock-kneed jumper,
but he never actually gets off the floor,
the ball with a lot of arc
leaving his hands which twist counter-clockwise,
giving it a reverse english
as it snaps through the hoop,
the net cracking like a stick,
then turns itself inside-out
and the ref has to get it back down
by throwing the ball up
through the underside of the rim.
Joe shoots a lot, more than he has to,
but he can score. On a good night,
he hardly misses.
He’ll throw in forty, fifty.
He’s captain, All-Catholic,
totally conscious of every move he makes.
He’s invented himself and pulled it off.
You can see it when the team comes out to warm up,
the way he swoops in for his lay-ups
as Sweet Georgia Brown blares over the P.A.
and Central’s tiny gym begins to rock.
Joe’s a sweet guy, no denying.
Number 44 in your program,
number one in your heart,
he signs everyone’s yearbook.
The clock shows fifteen seconds.
There’s time to work it in
to one of the big guys for something close,
draw the foul: two from the line,
at least one and one.
Tie it up. Overtime.
Play the percentages.
Canevin’s working a half-court man-press,
so they pick up at center court,
Joe-Joe right in the middle of the jump circle,
dribbling, the clock dwindling
when Russ Benko, one of Joe’s boyhood friends
from Saint Rosalia’s in Greenfield —
everyone’s standing now, banging the bleachers
with their heels,the whole gym literally
vibrating, the walls sweating —
Russ yells in his best Mr. Killian imitation.
There’s nobody better at it.
You’d think it was him.
His wife would think it was him.
Russ yells, “Shoot it, Joe-Joe, shoot it.”
And Joe-Joe, at dead half court
with a guy all over hm, never hesitates,
just throws it up with that quirky twist,
way up, the ball seeming to spin
in six different directions.
Killian can’t believe it.
Bending over and beating his thighs with his fists,
squeezing his head between his hands.
He’s going to kill Joe-Joe.
A cockeyed half-court jumper
with a man open under the boards.
That goes in without touching the rim,
as if there were no rim,
just an invisible hole in the air
that only Joe-Joe and the ball know about,
the net there simply to swoon
like lace on its halo
of orange steel