In Memory of the Utah Stars

By William Matthews 1942–1997 William Matthews
Each of them must have terrified
his parents by being so big, obsessive
and exact so young, already gone
and leaving, like a big tipper,
that huge changeling’s body in his place.
The prince of bone spurs and bad knees.

The year I first saw them play
Malone was a high school freshman,
already too big for any bed,
14, a natural resource.
You have to learn not to
apologize, a form of vanity.
You flare up in the lane, exotic
anywhere else. You roll the ball
off fingers twice as long as your
girlfriend’s. Great touch for a big man,
says some jerk. Now they’re defunct
and Moses Malone, boy wonder at 19,
rises at 20 from the St. Louis bench,
his pet of a body grown sullen
as fast as it grew up.

Something in you remembers every
time the ball left your fingertips
wrong and nothing the ball
can do in the air will change that.
You watch it set, stupid moon,
the way you watch yourself
in a recurring dream.
You never lose your touch
or forget how taxed bodies
go at the same pace they owe,
how brutally well the universe
works to be beautiful,
how we metabolize loss
as fast as we have to.

William Matthews, “In Memory of the Utah Stars” from Rising and Falling. Copyright © 1979 by William Matthews. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Source: Rising and Falling (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1979)

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Poet William Matthews 1942–1997

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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