RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Here with our poet in residence, Kwame Alexander. Hello, Kwame.
KWAME ALEXANDER: Hey there, Rachel. How you doing?
MARTIN: I'm pretty good. How are you doing?
ALEXANDER: I'm super.
MARTIN: You're super. You're always super.
ALEXANDER: What can I say? I'm batting a thousand.
ALEXANDER: I'm undefeated.
MARTIN: Nice. I like how you worked that in.
ALEXANDER: Just call me Ace.
MARTIN: (Laughter) Ace, when we were last together, we shared some sports poetry, and we asked our listeners to send in their masterpieces, and they did, right?
ALEXANDER: How many did we get?
MARTIN: Over 500.
MARTIN: I know. It was pretty good.
ALEXANDER: I know I say this a lot, but this poetry thing really works.
MARTIN: It does.
ALEXANDER: I think people love it because it lets them feel more connected to others.
ALEXANDER: I found an interesting quote about poetry from a Polish poet, whose name I can never pronounce correctly, Czeslaw Milosz. (Reading) The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person, for our house is open. There are no keys in the doors, and invisible guests come in and out at will.
MARTIN: So true, right? OK. With that, shall we present our MORNING EDITION community poem about sports?
ALEXANDER: Game on, Rachel Martin. You start and I'll sub.
MARTIN: (Laughter) OK. Here we go. (Reading) 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.
ALEXANDER: (Reading) I'm a hurricane force with a Blue Jacket sting. I flash to the finish like my feet have wings. You'd think you'd got skill with your high jump technique. I spring through the air while you're tripping on your feet. I hurdle through the world while you stub your toes.
MARTIN: (Reading) 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.
ALEXANDER: (Reading) 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 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.
MARTIN: (Reading) 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.
ALEXANDER: (Reading) 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.
MARTIN: (Reading) 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.
ALEXANDER: (Reading) Hey, honey, got your glove?
MARTIN: (Reading) 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.
ALEXANDER: (Reading) 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 5, the 8-year-old on ice by 6, 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 16 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.
MARTIN: (Reading) 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.
ALEXANDER: (Reading) Stop. Imagine 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 10 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.
MARTIN: (Reading) 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.
ALEXANDER: (Reading) 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.
MARTIN: (Reading) I skied the bumps with grace and flair. I hit the jumps and caught some air. I didn't know that rock was there. And that concludes my story.
ALEXANDER: (Laughter) Man, our listeners are ballers. That was an awesome cornucopia, a poet-pourri (ph) if you will.
MARTIN: A poet-pourri.
ALEXANDER: A poet-pourri of the wild world of sports.
MARTIN: We had tennis and baseball, track, cross-country, of course, football.
ALEXANDER: We had some ballet in there and basketball and hockey.
MARTIN: Yep. Thanks to all of you, all of our listeners, who submitted poems. We so appreciate it.
ALEXANDER: We can't share all of them, but there are so many wonderful contributions. It's such an honor to read and to help create this community, crowdsourced poem.
MARTIN: We love it every time we do this. Kwame Alexander is a regular contributor to MORNING EDITION, a huge Mystics fan, we should say, and the inaugural innovator in residence at the American School in London. Kwame, Happy Thanksgiving.
ALEXANDER: You as well, Rachel. Cheers.
(SOUNDBITE OF SABZI'S "SMOKER'S COUGH")
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