First Love

Carl Linder

Before sixteen
I was fast
enough to fake
my shadow out
and I could read
every crack and ripple
in that patch of asphalt.
I owned
the slanted rim
the dead spot in the backboard.
Always the ball
came back.
Every day I loved
to sharpen
my shooting eye,
for the touch.
Set shot, jump shot,
layup, hook—
after a while
I could feel
the ball hungering
to clear
the lip of the rim,
the two of us
falling through.