Mar 28, 2009

elite eight: Whitman sings the blues

For inspiration on this first day of the Elite Eight, we turn not the spirits of the game, who are notoriously fickle, but rather to the spirit of Walt Whitman, the mangy prophet.

Song of a Quarterfinal

I loaf and lounge in the TV's gaze, observing a game of college hoops.
I, now thirty years old in close-to-perfect health begin,
hoping to cease not till commercial break.

I recline and let the apparitions of a thousand layups, fadeaways, alleys-oop,
born of the merging of desire and dream,
play and re-play on this electric canvas.

The jumpers and the dribblers, the passers and dunkers: the same.
The short, the tall, the lunky, the lanky: the same.
The Lawsons, the Thabeets, the Aldriches, the Hansbroughs: the same.

Glass, steel, cord, hardwood, paint,
glaze of sweat and the supplication of a halfcourt heave,
out of this tumult of noise and smell and motion,
four visions arise.

Tigers, shelled by a shot-block, innards drooping from the husk.
Panthers locked in death-dance with wild-cats, brother against brother, clawing and scraping until the elders collapse in defeat.
Cardinals swooping, spiraling, unstoppable.
Tar Heels choking in the dust of a hundred thousand covered wagons.

I recline, lodged between the seeing and the knowing,
waiting for the whistle, this call in the midst of the crowd:
My own voice, orotund sweeping and final.


TeacherRefPoet said...

And literary critics, years later, still could not figure out who Walt thought would win the Pitt game.

Jim Anderson said...

It hinges on the definition of "elders." Following Miller (1994) I believe it refers to the higher seed, rather than the team with the older coach (Hoekstra's theory) or with the oldest combined ages (Jennifer Duchamp's MLA conference shocker back in 1982).

However, Whitman's other thoughts on self-contradiction make any reading tenuous at best.