Excerpts from
Jump Ball

Dennis Carlton  (page 18)
When I was five, 
My father put up a basketball hoop
On a telephone pole outside our apartment.
I practiced hard to be my father’s son,
But all I learned was
Asphalt shimmers in the summer heat
And fingers sting in the winter’s half light.
I know I am not good enough
To play varsity ball, but
My father insists I try out for the Tigers anyway.
I know my shots will miss 
Even before they fall off the rim.
I know I’ll be cut
Even before the coach calls, “Next!”
Between the ball and the backboard, 
Between the paint and the perimeter, 
I know I’ll let my father down.
What happens to a dream, 

Jason Cohen  (page 91)
Together we look like 
Mutt and Jeff, 
Abbott and Costello,
DeVito and Schwarzenegger.
When we go to the diner, his friends say,
“Yo, who’s the little white boy you’re hangin’ with?”
He says, “He’s my bro. You got a problem with that?”
He’s been over to my house so many times, 
My grandma wants to adopt him.
He stays at my house a lot.
His home life ain’t too cool,
So we don’t talk about it much.
He does my math homework; I do his history.
We sit at the kitchen table, 
Studying our books and stuffing our faces.
“Hey, ugly,” he says,
“Your grandma got more of that soup?”
“You mean the one with the noodles?”
“Yeah, that’s what I want.”
Friendship, I guess, is just a matter of taste.

Garrett James  (page 108)
Mr. Paley, my history teacher,
Ain’t too impressed with me.
No matter how many points I get,
Steals I make, rebounds I grab,
My stats don’t matter to him.
I start to argue; he begins,
“Mr. James, in the cosmic scope of events,
The world will little note, nor long remember,
Who won the high school championship
This year, last year, or any year.”
I continue to argue, he goes on,
“Mr. James, in eons to come, future archaeologists
Will unearth a deflated basketball,
Think it some round animal, and will wonder
At the meaning of the brand NBA upon it.”
I argue louder; he goes right on,
“Mr. James, become someone who can leave a legacy,
A teacher, perhaps, yes, you’d be a good one.
I see the younger students following you in the halls.
You have natural leadership abilities.”
I thank him; he has one more thing to say,
“Mr. James, do something useful with your life.
That is the way you can score points with me.”

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