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"An Interpretation of Why Caged Birds Sing", "Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever"... by Matthew Johnson

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!

- Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Sympathy”

An Interpretation of Why Caged Birds Sing

- After Paul Laurence Dunbar

I always thought that white people

Would more likely sympathize with birds;

These little creatures

Who can climb the heavens to see who hangs the stars

And forms the planets, and bends the colors to make rainbows,

Than me and my people, who are just like them, except in the colors of our skin,

For I’ve seen how they have treated their pets and animals,

And I’ve seen how they’ve treated me and my people.

Age is a question of mind over matter.

If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

- Satchel Paige, Negro League Pitcher

Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever

Ol’ Satchel Paige could endure a slew of Herculean labors:

Like soaking for three hours

In freezing tub water,

Or rubbing stinging snake oil

On those aging joints, rubber arm, and magic shoulder,

All after tossing a gem of a shutout, as his defense kicked back and relaxed,

And then riding after setting suns in cramped conditions

To less than amicable locations.

Yet, despite the pitching repertoire,

As expensive and deep as an encyclopedia,

And wearing the mask as the most self-assured, charming player

In the history of baseball,

None of those attributes could mask the torment

That after decades of setting the groundwork,

Carrying black baseball on your back for well over a decade,

Someone else was chosen, and you weren’t the first one 𑁋

The Greatest Triumph of Georgetown’s John Thompson

For the longest time, I thought Georgetown was an HBCU because of John Thompson:

The mostly black rosters. The uniform designed with a Kente-clothed pattern.

The bigoted signs and cold shoulders from so many white fans and reporters.

The AND1 crossovers and quicksilver dribbles of Allen Iverson,

One of college basketball’s most compulsive scorers.

I figure most coaches with Big John’s resume

Would say their biggest triumph was the college basketball championship,

Or the six titles in college basketball’s greatest conference,

Or perhaps, officially closing Manley Field House,

But I think it would be the off-court crusades and battles,

Like challenging the NCAA, and pulling his team off the floor

In Northeast stadiums and centers because of their cheap, racist stuff;

Those would be the victories he’s most proud of.

He loved all of those young men of his,

And despite the practice chew outs and the temperament of fire,

He was their teacher, and the lesson was daily and reflected in his behavior:

Don't let the sum total of your existence be eight to 10 pounds of air…

Matthew is a three-time Best of the Net Nominee and the author of 'Shadow Folks and Soul Songs' (Kelsay Books) and his most recent collection, "Far from New York State" (NYQ Press). His poetry has appeared in Roanoke Review, Front Porch Review, The Maryland Literary Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and elsewhere. Matthew is the recipient of a Sundress Publications Residency. He is a former sports journalist and editor who wrote for the USA Today College and the Daily Star in Oneonta, NY. An MA graduate from UNC-Greensboro, he is the managing editor of The Portrait of New England and the poetry editor of The Twin Bill. Twitter: @Matt_Johnson_D Website:


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