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3:33 Sports Short #28 // Small Meditations by Michael Wasson

Crushed in the hands, the scent of pine needles & the smear of sap on the ball. My jump shot comes to me from hours behind my childhood home shooting at the hoop that my long-haired uncles drilled into the face of the pine. No real court to dribble on. That’s okay. I just shoot under the large pine that I mistake for a fatherly skeleton crucified at dusk. After a few weeks, the ball lies half-discolored. A face I’ve not touched in years it seems. Flattening. But I pick it up again & arc through the low hanging arms of this skeletal, living tree.


Inside the house, my great grandmother is dying. I’m 12 years old. I shoot at a rusted rim. A squaring patch of dirt is the paint. The gravel & broken down cars hoisted on chopping blocks leading to the HUD house: the perimeter. The dilapidated, splitting backboard—literally a board—is how I rebound to keep the ball semi-graspable. I wash my hands before I help her to the restroom.


His father pours rugged cement to make a small court beside their house. After, my cousin & I take our living room Fisher-Price dunks & clutch shots from behind the sage-smelling couch covered in a Pendleton blanket to this real court. At least we think it is. I’m 9 years old. He lost his older brother last year. We play H-O-R-S-E until our relatives start three-on-three. It’s past supper—hunger somewhere deep in the open mouth of the rim. Something we want to swallow over & over. Before winter, I won’t see ’ácqa alive again. I forget how to cry at his funeral. Until after. When his body’s not there.


Summer. Mom’s in debt because of doctor visits. His knees can’t. I’m 10. No team sports.


Grandma says uncle, as a teen, would play basketball at the Mexis until 10 or 11 at night. His indigenous knees & elbows all scraped up. I imagine streetlights as little breakable moons. I think about shoot out the lights & gunfire. He was blooming from so much light—his skin gave away. Now I’m watching him play rezball at the páayniwaas—the community center. He still wrecks the paint with only one eye.


I’m on a small island in southwestern Japan. 25 years old. I’m in the elementary gym. my classes are done, & there’s one small green basketball I find. The only basketball. It’s tiny. At least this is a court, though. An international trapezoid with taped lines. I take a jump shot. I’ve lost three people this year. Swish. Miss. Bank. Put back. Baby hook. Runner. Now it’s dark, winter & wind desperate to tear off the ceiling. Alone again. I’m searching for that sound—rattled board. The beauty of all net. Netless emptiness. Reaching up, & unable to see the rim now. My sight searching for any residue of faint light. I’m following-through, flicking my release, even without seeable hands. In the dark. Working on my touch. My feel.

Michael Wasson's poems appear in American Poets, Narrative, Passages North, and Mud City Journal. He is nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation and lives abroad.