The Descent of the Dunk
by Patricia Lockwood
First no one could dunk and then they all could.
The dunk evolved, and then stood upright, was even
perceived to be intelligent, with too big a brain
at the top of it, the ball. It grew upright and smooth-
skinned with a tendency toward religion, the dunk
stood up too fast, they said, and consequently has
headaches, and trouble breathing in spring when
it is so beautiful. The childhood of the dunk
was no childhood at all.
He practiced on a paper route, throwing The Sun
to the same place each morning. Did not sleep long
but when he slept, the springs of his bed imparted
something to him. At night the streetlight floated
down and let him dribble it. Then there was school
there was every day school where he crumpled up
tests and he tossed them in the trashcan. He shouted
TWO POINTS and had to stay after and copy out
the “football” page of the dictionary, which could not
keep him down -- he saw writers of the dictionary
at their desks, performing small silent neat dunks.
The crowd of the devoted watching. Like watching
is reading. Like it isn't. The dunk felt like a leather
study in space, and someone thinking how inside him,
and a perfected body in a leather chair wondering
just how far he can push himself. A leap sometimes
occurs within an animal, the dunk felt that happen
within him. He landed sure on his feet again and then
he was wholly himself. A joint so surely in its socket,
the whole city could go walking on it. All the rain
comes down at once in a single bounding drop,
and the wells of the countryside look up at once full,
and no open mouth is thirsty, and every mouth is open.
A great heavy body it weighed the dunk down. The dunk
and the moon pulled it up like the sea. The crowd of us
shouted his name to dunk him deep into himself. More
than half-moons in his fingertips, and rising through the air
in a loud round translation,
and the air right then breathing him back.
Was the only complete thing in the world, was the dunk.
Well that and everyone who watched it.
Goosebumps even on the ball. The ball spinning like
bodies could live on it, and whatever led up to the bodies
too. It stood up too fast, it got taller and taller, its women get
bellies like basketballs. A woman dunking! That'll be the day.
Yet here I am sailing over your heads, and then,
with the sound, slamming into them.
Read “The Dunk, Through and Through,” Patricia Lockwood’s chronicle of writing this poem.