Breakaway poem play

At SOS—Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog, Ruth encourages playing with paragraphing and line breaks, as “a simple break changes the sound and, sometimes, the meaning.”

I am resharing this memoir poem I wrote a few months ago, wherein I played with line breaks. I am still playing with them.

This is one of my favorites. For many reasons. A scene I witnessed last year, during my husband’s recovery:

The Passing

She comes out of his study carrying it
in her four-year-old arms
and his face is transformed, glowing
as if a passing cloud has uncovered the sun.
He leans forward in the recliner as she
drops it, kicks it, sets it spinning
—Oh, no, he says, this one’s not for kicking,
it’s for dribbling, just as the ball stops
at his feet. He reaches down, lifts it
with the easy grace of the boy on the court,
hands perfectly placed on the worn brown surface
in split-second calculation of the shot
so many times to the roar of the school crowd
so many hours with friends, his own and then
his son’s, still outscoring them all, red-faced,
heart pounding, dripping with sweat, radiant
—and at twelve, all alone on the pavement
facing the hoop his mother installed
 in the backyard of the new house
after his father died, every thump echoing
Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.
The game’s in the blood, the same DNA
that just last year left him with a heart full
of metal and grafts, too winded to walk
more than short distances, having to stop
to catch his breath, deflated
—it needs some air. Do you have a pump,
he asks his son, sitting there on the sofa,
eyes riveted to the screen emitting
continuous squeaks of rubber soles
against hardwood.
—Yeah, Dad. I’ve got one and the needle, too.
His father leans in to the little girl at his knee,
his battered heart in his hands:
—Would you like to have it?
She nods, grinning, reaching,
her arms, her hands
almost too small
to manage the old brown sphere
rolling from one to the other
like a whole world
passing.

Photo: Marcus BalcherCC BY-SA

More fun wordplay in my post title: A hinged basketball hoop that bends downward with a slam dunk and springs back into place is called a breakaway rim.

If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join the open-hearted group at
Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog.
#sosmagic

Also celebrating poems and poets in the vibrant Poetry Friday community – many thanks to Margaret Simon for hosting the Roundup at Reflections on the Teche.

37 thoughts on “Breakaway poem play

  1. What a loving tribute to the game and granddaughter your husband loves. So many lines to love:
    ” …his face is transformed,” and
    “the old brown sphere
    rolling from one to the other
    like a whole world
    passing.”
    Your captured this moment so well.
    Do you know Edward Hirsch’s poem “Fast Break”? I loved sharing it with my sixth graders.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. aww this poem had me tearing up at —Oh, no, he says, this one’s not for kicking,
    it’s for dribbling, just as the ball stops
    at his feet. He reaches down, lifts it
    with the easy grace of the boy on the court,
    I was hoping my tears would stop there because my husband coached so many seasons of my favorite sport. But then when you turned it back to Daddy, daddy, daddy. I was a hot mess. Thank you for writing and touching my heart so deeply today. I felt your heart today. Thank you, thank you. Sharing with my Dave, if you don’t mind XO

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Nanc – I am so glad you loved it. My husband’s dad played basketball – my husband inherited the passion from him and so the game became something to hold onto when he was 12 and lost his dad to a heart attack. The heart disease is also inherited (although my husband is amazingly well now, 18 months after 2 heart surgeries). Please do share with your Dave. Would love to know his thoughts. ❤️

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  3. As one who now carries metal near his heart I can readily identify with the very essence of your poem. This memoir moment is rich in imagery and reclaimed connection Fran. I think you have captured this small moment and its significance with respectful tones and much reverence. Thank you for taking me back into this poignant moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I so appreciate your identification with this poem and your words about reverence, especially – that was exactly what was in my own heart when I witnessed the scene, before I ever wrote a word. Thanks so much, Alan.

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  4. It’s so appealing the way your poem nearly “bounces” back & forth while reading, from child to dad, the love & care, passing on through the years. It’s poignant and loving to tie it all together, Fran.

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  5. Absolutely gorgeous. This one gave me chills–I felt it so completely. My husband never had anyone to play ball with, and I love watching him play with our son in the driveway, with his old ball.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, Fran! Such a moving and emotional piece! I was intrigued after your first line and hooked after your second line, which is I think my favorite line “in her four-year-old arms.” As I read your poem, it played out like a movie in my mind that I didn’t want to end. Good for me I can read it again and again so it doesn’t end. So vivid and powerful.

    I love how you change the mood of the poem and use the symbol of the basketball to be a basketball, your husband’s heart, and at the end, a world. I love how at the beginning your granddaughter transforms your husband to joy and then, at the end she gives him joy and hope. Passing is the perfect title for this poem where so much is passed between four generations. Your writing leaves me in awe. Each time I read something you write you give me a valuable lesson in writing, inspiration, joy… Other favorite lines are:

    “His father leans in to the little girl at his knee,
    his battered heart in his hands:
    —Would you like to have it?
    She nods, grinning, reaching,
    her arms, her hands
    almost too small”

    Oh my, Fran, this poem needs to be published. It seems like a poem that would, after it becomes famous, be required reading for teachers to teach students about poetry/writing techniques. I know you are an amazing teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are ever the encourager, Gail. When I’ve worked with students on writing, I tell them why I love it and that they can write about anything in the universe or anything they can imagine. I love watching their faces transform much like my husband’s did in this poem, when they realize the power of their own thoughts and words. Magical. Your words here mean much to me, for this poem is among my favorites of those I’ve written. Thank you ❤

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  7. This poem is a favorite of mine too…there are all the tender moments and turn of language with “pump, dribbling, holds his heart in his hands,” And, there’s joy in me as I read that someone….you….a poet was able to capture this sacred, fleeting moment with mere words. It is a very special poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda, for every word on this “sacred, fleeting moment” and all the other moments tied to it that I so wanted to capture, somehow…delighted to know that the poem brings you joy.

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  8. This poem is wonderful where-ever you put the line breaks. Sorry, but it just is. I read it a few times and thought I left a comment, but I’m not seeing it.

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