Poetry by Charles Joseph

City Sports

To Joshua, for all our memories,

I don’t know about your stories with other-balls
but in my city, our sport is handball:

where the outsiders and class-drivers reconciled
their pride, forces and hides
each Friday night, after school: concrete playground
blue round rubber band ball bouncing boldly.
Man, that was our party!

Our palms would bump ’till peel
but this pain, we never feel.
Slaps and echo’s drumming our ear drums
before it resonates into what seems to be an abyss;
a neighborhood made of blocks, corner stores, out-of-schedule buses,
squirrels; pigeons
and apartments ever too tight to fit our dreams,
so the city never sleeps.
Some say it’s because we are convinced that
we will fix these dreams right
each time we’re breaking night.

But days are for society’s demands
and kids walking in bands;
teenagers mimicking gangs.

Maybe we only mimicked cause we knew.
Deep down, there were bigger purposes
than parading around corners, down blocks
where piggies oink with bother:
questions that could never answer
why we’re always shooed off our own territory
with dictation about school, our potentials
which, for now, is in the form of trouble seen in the skin color
of our brother.

We always knew.
This education: stories of doctorates, laws and a backpedal
to instruction,
was only the limits we were told to be bounded to.
There had to be a way to let wind
slide under our capes. Although
we, at times, refused to believe it.

But if a brother could actually use these real life wings
that he won’t shut his trap about,
then, brother, I’ll be the first to slide
up and down rainbows.

Sometimes, even we tell ourselves to not believe in our dreams.
Though this stubbornness in us always sang else:
there’s more beyond being trapped in this trap
with a tight cap.

My city life is: handball sessions at the local park’s handball court.
Where you know these Asian kids won’t be beaten.
Rounds on the basketball courts
where you know the black kids are kings of the court.
Skate spots that I doubt are legalized
where the white kids are discovering culture.

Culturally divided, we always were
culturally integrated, we always are
for every now and then,
we mingle our differences in the center of the court—
qualities of: Professional Athlete, Einstein and CEO
losing their differences.

Step behind that white line; cracked line
and serve.


I posted an older version of this poem a few years ago. This one is edited and much better, so I am sharing it again. I also got the opportunity to meet up with an old friend of mine from freshmen year of high school the other day. We haven’t seen each other in 10 years. It was so enriching to talk to him and catch up with our lives. I shared this poem with him. That was very special for me because he is THE ONLY person in the entire world who could fully understand this poem. And he did. After reading the poem and reminiscing over the good ol’ times, we went out to a deli to buy a handball. We then found ourselves a handball court. There we had our first handball match in 10 years! It was incredible, and he beat my ass like he used to do back in freshmen year of high school! It was a fantastic time. Freshmen year of high school, I would go through the day looking forward to go play handball after school. After the bell rung, we would put our stuff in our lockers, run outside to the nearby park, get on the handball court—we each carried a handball in our book bag—and form teams. Then one of us would walk to the middle of the handball court with the ball, step behind that white line; cracked line—suspense fills the air—and the rest is history. Serve.

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