Elegy for Richards Coones

by Lance Larsen

He’d prefer a preacher
with a gap-toothed smile
and enough moves to dribble
his way through Purgatory.
I sit in the last row,                                                                                                                 wishing coaches were canonized.
I’m talking about the real coaches,
who feel it in their thighs
when a shot goes up.
Richard Coones did.
Basketball was his blood.
He invoked the gods
in the name of trajectory
and sent us to Hell
for a missed pick.
That was junior high.

We pulled supporters
over thin thighs
and wore T-shirts
like numbered skins.
I think of the old gym,
how the light would fall
from smoky windows
on the lady running the timer,
and I see how this service
ought to be-altar boys in jocks
and cassocks running lay-ins,
the choir singing rockabilly,
and Richard in a sweatshirt
yelling from his box.
Afterwards, they could pry up
the boards, drop him at the baseline,
and ask Cousy and Havlicek
to pray him into Heaven.

If it can’t be this way,
I’ 11 pay my respects later.
High tops laced firm,
wristband in place,
I’ 11 head for the park.
I’ll eye the chain-link net  and start from mid-court-
seven steps, three dribbles,                                                                                                             a lift of my knee, and I’11 rise,
a slow smoke.

First appeared in Wisconsin Review, November, 1987.