I put more effort into my game
than my grades,
kickin’ it at the courts with my boys,
shooting jumpers and the shit.

We swore and sweat and smoked
like our junior college GPA was based
on f-bombs and yo’ momma jokes
and a full scholarship to a university
would be offered if our twenty-footers
ignored the rim
and only hit net.

Phil always caught us with his spin move,
even though we knew that was his
only move worth guarding against,
and Big Joe owned the post
like a bitter landlord,
slapping the label and audacity off the ball
with each swatted shot.

The mid-range was mine,
banking balls off the glass like first kisses,
tender release easing into a nurturing
follow-through I’d learn to love.

When strangers challenged us,
we defended our park
like the losers of the game
lost their man card,
diving for loose balls as if
the cement was on our side and each
bloody knee and possession
was a lesson in hardcourt
and heart.

Over time, we showed up
until we simply didn’t,
our lives transforming
from twilight summer days
to sunrise responsibility
we could no longer afford
to snooze on.

Today I play against guys
the same age as I was back then.
My jumper: less consistent,
my effort: less persistent.
But every once in awhile
I’m able to turn the corner and take
one of my opponents to school,
drive past them and score
as if I earned a doctorate
in representing
and remembrance.

Daniel Romo is the author of When Kerosene's Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014) and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). His work can be found in The Los Angeles Review, Gargoyle, MiPOesias, and elsewhere. He is the Co-founder/Editor at Wherewithal and Head Poetry Editor for Cease, Cows. More at danielromo.net.