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Hoops, High Jumps, Movement Of Muscles: A Crowdsourced Poem Inspired By Sports

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NPR asked for your sports-inspired poetry and you replied with an overwhelming "game on!" We collected more than 500 responses about games, players and perseverance.

The submissions found poetry in tennis, baseball, ballet, track, cross country, football, basketball and hockey, as well as themes of winning and losing, technique and talent, movement and melody.

Poet Kwame Alexander took all the responses and created a Morning Edition community poem that covers, he says, a " 'poetpourri' of a wild world of sports." (For the list of contributors whose submissions helped create the poem, scroll to the bottom.)

Hoops, High Jumps, Movement Of Muscles: A Crowdsourced Sports Poem

The trail has been treacherous, rocky and twisting—
I'm tempted to quit, my poor legs resisting
but up this steep hill I continue to rally,
envisioning flowers that bloom in the valley...

I'm a hurricane force
with a Blue Jacket sting.

I flash to the finish
like my feet have wings.

You think you got skill
with your high jump technique?

I spring through the air
while you're trippin' on your feet.

I hurdle through the world
while you stub your toes.

I'm the queen of the fast lane—
everybody knows.

So bring your best,
your talent, your speed.

The ladies from Daniels
don't follow—we lead.

The girl's got hoops and she's 5'9"
a skinny brown beanpole
I'm so proud she's mine
I had pushed for ballet slippers
She quietly agreed
Graceful but loveless, she did it for me
Now out on that court with the ball in her hand
more graceful than ever
The dance finally began

Crisp movements catching the eyes of everyone in the room,
Gliding across the floor as if on water,
Jumping with the beat of the melody

There's something about the arc the ball makes
As it traces the path between us.
Catch and throw, catch and throw.
The warmth of the early spring sun,
The slap of the ball into leather,
The movement of muscles, automatic, familiar.
We ease into it, loosening our arms
With throws casual and slow.

We have played this game with Nerf balls,
Babies sleeping in the other room,
With tennis balls in swimming pools
Showing off our acrobatic, diving catches —
A 10 from the American judge!
On grassy fields with bases,
Giggling kids racing between, caught in a pickle.

Through 40 years of friendship and 30 of marriage,
This has been a constant:

Shall I compare thee to a stand-up double?
Thou art more welcome and more absolute.

"Hey Honey — got your glove?"

Now, we take it more seriously
than when we were any good—
before the joint surgeries,
when we could still hit without pain,
when we had legs.
Now, we play not to lose—
...but today
everyone that shows up
wins—this sun, this
sky, these companionable
partners, these comprehensible lines.

When you have ice blocks for feet, icicle fingers
and a lump in your throat to tremble your body
with cold tomorrow, you doubt the sanity

of waking at five, the 8-year-old on ice
by six, blades carving shapes you can't name.
And when your boy looks through his coach's face

on the bench, red cheeks, a fire in each wooded
eye, complains about tripping, that number
sixteen with the black mask, says I'll chop

him down next time, you doubt this game.
At the hour you venture into the warm room
to thaw out your spine and hear a father

break down his son's backhand highlight spinner
in a voice loud enough for all to hear
you know the annual backyard ice sheet

was a bad idea.

This is not what forgiveness is supposed to look like—
fast-food tacos and football.

The game should be a reason to talk
but as players flatten each other
we watch with flat faces.

Football steals Sundays.
"Hon, weekends are for family,
help with these damn kids!"

the universe, green-sunned planet or whatever, where this
is poetry.

Where Monday morning papers put a poet—mouth open, arm rising—
on the front page, and, in its own section,
there are statistical landscapes ranking metaphors and similes,
Top Ten rundown of the season's best opening and closing lines,
investigative articles on the billions of hours of lost office productivity
due to online Fantasy Poet leagues.

there's a big burly man in a headset somewhere
weeping and waving his hands about Kwame Alexander
before four sportscasters in matching tweed blazers slap each other on the back and stage an analytical replay of an Emily Dickinson stanza with unseen markers drawing arrows and lines across the screen:

The sky was clear, the snow was deep
I prayed the lord my soul to keep,
Then launched myself down mountain steep
In search of alpine glory.

I skied the bumps with grace and flare,
I hit the jumps and caught some air,
I didn't know that rock was there,
And that concludes my story.

This poem was created using submissions by:

Suzy Levinson, New York, N.Y.

Michael Beadle, Raleigh, N.C.

Jan Hernandez, Callisburg, Texas

Sid DeRosia from Judson Middle School, Salem, Ore.

Melissa Kinsey, Downers Grove, Ill.

Donald Nitchie, Chilmark, Mass.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Portland, Maine

Megan Willome, Fredericksburg, Texas

Rae Donovan, North Ferrisburgh, Vt.

Matt Mason, Omaha, Neb.

Bruce McGuffin, Lexington, Mass.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.