Losing Steps by Stephen Dunn

Losing Steps

by Stephen Dunn


It’s probably a Sunday morning
in a pickup game, and it’s clear
you’ve begun to leave
fewer people behind.

Your fakes are as good as ever,
but when you move
you’re like the Southern Pacific
the first time a car kept up with it,

your opponent at your hip,
with you all the way
to the rim. Five years earlier
he’d have been part of the air

that stayed behind you
in your ascendance.
On the sidelines they’re saying,
He’s lost a step.


In a few more years
it’s adult night in a gymnasium
streaked with the abrupt scuff marks
of high schoolers, and another step

leaves you like a wire
burned out in a radio.
You’re playing defense,
someone jukes right, goes left,

and you’re not fooled
but he’s past you anyway,
dust in your eyes,
a few more points against you.


Suddenly you’re fifty;
if you know anything about steps
you’re playing chess
with an old, complicated friend.

But you’re walking to a schoolyard
where kids are playing full-court,
telling yourself
the value of experience, a worn down

basketball under your arm,
your legs hanging from your waist
like misplaced sloths in a county
known for its cheetahs and its sunsets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *