James Baldwin’s BLUES FOR MISTER CHARLIE

The Vintage International version (1992) of James Baldwin’s play Blues for Mister Charlie offers some of Baldwin’s insight in the introduction “Notes for Blues.” Baldwin actually begins by expressing his general and genuine disdain for the American Theatre. He states, “I am not convinced that it is a Theatre; it seems to me a series, merely, of commercial speculations, stale, repetitious, and timid” (xiii). Baldwin goes on to explain that Emmett Till’s murder became the initial inspiration for his work with Blues for Mister Charlie. Baldwin, too, recounts how the death of his close friend, Medgar Evans, was in fact the tipping point to get his ideas in script form. At the conclusion of “Notes,” Baldwin writes: “When [Medgar Evans] died, something entered into me which I cannot describe, but it was then that I resolved that nothing under heaven would prevent me from getting this play done” (xv). In typical and true Baldwin form, he writes because he feels an urgency. Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie is, sadly, a timeless American tale. A white man kills an innocent black boy and then walks free. Baldwin finished this play in 1964, but it speaks to 2016 just as easily.

Blues for Mister Charlie is a play in three Acts. The set design is particularly important to Baldwin’s work. He presents two worlds, WHITETOWN and BLACKTOWN, which are separate, but sort of co-exist in Plaguetown, U.S.A. (xv), a pseudonym for perhaps (or, maybe, essentially) any city in America. Then, there’s the church and the courtroom, which are directly across from one another and divided by an aisle that, too, divides the whites from the blacks. Baldwin’s stage screams of a segregated world. It’s not minimalistic by any means. It’s a busy stage, done intentionally to note the confusion, the traffic, and the real racial collisions within America. The stage design accentuates the growing intensity between the whites and blacks especially in the last Act. While various individuals take the stand to share what they know about Lyle Britten’s guilt or innocence in regards to the death of Richard Henry, a young black male, the WHITETOWN and the BLACKTOWN make comments, almost as if it is a play-by-play at a sporting event. In one heated moment after the State asks Meridian Henry, the deceased’s father, about his personal life, the opposing thoughts of the two worlds shout at one another:

THE STATE: You have been celibate since the death of your wife?

BLACKTOWN: He never said he was a monk, you jive mother!

WHITETOWN: Make him tell us all about it. All about it.

MERIDIAN: Celibate? How does my celibacy concern you?

THE STATE: Your Honor, will you instruct the witness that he is on the witness stand, not I, and that he must answer the questions put to him! (pg. 103)

This commentary continues through the duration of the trial, which finds Lyle Britten innocent. What’s even more frustrating is that the trial becomes not about the murderous act of a white man, but the reputation of the dead, black boy. It’s all a setup. The reader (and the audience) knows that Lyle Britten will be found innocent. Baldwin was purposeful with his intent here and blatant with his message: even a dead, black boy is the guilty one, and both the BLACKTOWN and the WHITETOWN know this.

Parnell James, the loud and drunk editor of the local paper, is perhaps the most intriguing character. Parnell is white, but is close with both the accused and the victim. He grew up with Lyle Britten, the murderer, and is, too, close with Meridian Henry, the victim’s father. Throughout the play Parnell interacts with both families and towns, and it’s never absolutely clear who he truly sides with. Parnell is at the center of this collision. How can he choose one to fully support? He has to, and yet he struggles to do so. Again, Baldwin is not coy or shy with Parnell’s character. Parnell James represents many Americans—black and white—who find themselves at this crossroads. In the end, after Parnell finally gets the brutal truth from Lyle, he decides to follow Juanita, from the BLACKTOWN, to a Civil Rights march. Parnell’s not ready to lead this change, he’s just a follower, but he’s finally settled on which direction to take. Perhaps this is Baldwin’s subtle message to white America: you can only waver until you cannot.

Although this is a play, Blues for Mister Charlie feels like Baldwin’s prose. There are glimpses of his classic fictional characters in this play, which compliments his full work, I think. Baldwin was dedicated to his craft, his art, and his reason for writing. While I read this play, I constantly found myself thinking about John Grimes, David and Giovanni, Alfonso, Rufus Scott, even Sonny from his short story “Sonny’s Blues.” Baldwin knew the core of his characters, just as he knew the core of why he wrote. The final line of Baldwin’s introduction in “Notes for Blues” reads: “we are walking in terrible darkness here, and this is one man’s attempt to bear witness to the reality and the power of light” (xv). No finer words, I think, represent how important this play is today to our very divided and wavering America.

The Red

A human head, having been decapitated, was delicately packed in a cardboard box, but sent to the wrong address: 3857 Wester Drive. The box was opened on Halloween in the early afternoon when the sun is a pumpkin ball and the trick-or-treaters were not yet trick-or-treating, but the family had already eaten dinner and even the family dog Bobo, a Weimaraner, had been fed.

Here is the house. It’s red brick and has a red door. It’s very pretty. Mother, Father, Jane, and Bobo live in the red brick house. They’re very happy. See Jane in her Elsa costume play with Bobo. Jane goes to the red door. There’s a delivery. It’s in a brown, cardboard box. The UPS man says, “Careful, doll, that there box is dripping something red.” Jane says thank you and lugs it to her father.

“Wonder what’s leaking so bad?” Jane’s father says.

The red has bled through the flimsy cardboard bottom. Jane says I wonder what’s in the box. They go to the kitchen and take the black-handled scissors from the top drawer next to the sink and cut the top of the box carefully so it will open at the sealed flaps and inside the eyeballs are white because they’ve rolled back in its skull. It’s a man’s head.

Jane screams and yells mommy, mommy, mommy and runs upstairs. The father quivers to the sink and vomits a thick, pale red that comes from his insides. Something putrid. He doesn’t want to, but he looks again in the box, and the white eyeballs are staring at him. The dead man’s nose is pudgy and there’s a freckle on his bottom lip the shape of a coffee bean. He’s got a cleft chin and his dark hair is parted and combed nicely, as if that might have been his last act in the world.

The father can hear Jane and the mother descending the stairs. Bobo, who’s lying on the hallway floor licking the red, perks his ears at Jane’s sniffling.

“It’ll be okay, Janie,” Jane’s mother says and then she repeats herself.

“Don’t come in here,” the father says.

“What is it?” the mother says.

“Red.”

“What?”

The father doesn’t respond.

The mother’s voice rises with fear and anger when she says: “Well, Griffin, what is it?”

“Janie saw,” the father says.

“Saw what?”

The father rushes to Jane. “You didn’t see nothing, Janie, you hear? Nothing.”

“Okay, Daddy,” Jane says, whimpering through each syllable.

The father just shakes his head no when the mother asks him again and again what’s in the box. The father tells the mother to take Jane to the park to play on the playground and swing on the swings. “Take Bobo too,” he says.

When they leave and the father is left with the dead man’s head, he looks again. “Shit,” he says at the man’s neck, where it had been severed. Flabs of skin are suspended in a sort of hopeless way. Inside the neck there’s a river of veins, muscles, and cartilage that had function when the man was a living person. Most of the bleeding red had emptied; the last movement from the man was his red blood dripping. Now, it’s a still, inanimate head, awkward and heavy like a bowling ball. The father doesn’t want to, but he touches it. The skin feels like his, that’s the first thought the father has when he taps the face and then feels the thing by rubbing it. He pokes it and smears his palm on it and notices the hardness of the skull. The father touches his own face in the same way and he thinks it could’ve been him.

A half-hour later, after the father can’t decipher how exactly the head had come to be decapitated, he calls 911 and the respondent says, now you’re sure it’s a real head, over and over, and when two police officers arrive, one officer vomits right in the sink where the father vomited, and then they leave with the dead man’s head in the cardboard box and the officer that vomited left his card and told the father to call him, and then the father is alone in the red brick home and almost misses the head.

It’s after ten o’clock that night when the mother calls and says they can’t come home and that Jane told her what was in the box and that they’ll stay at the Motel 6 off Kildaire Farm Road, and the father says okay and then drives the fifteen minutes to the motel, but before he does, he cleans the red. All of it.

The family is never the same. The dead man’s head haunts Jane’s dreams, and she says everything in the world will be forever stained red. Red, Halloween red. The mother says it’s worse for her because she never saw the thing, the head, and so her imagination runs wild like elephants stampeding in a grassy savannah. “Your imagination is a blessing and a curse,” she says to the father, and he just nods but doesn’t say a word. He’s not sure why, but he misses the head and thinks it’s probably the most outstanding thing that will ever happen to him in this world. A human head in a cardboard box on his doorstep is, in a way, like holding the winning lottery ticket, he thinks.

The father and mother decide they must sell the red brick house and move, and they put it on the market, but with the news coverage and all no one wants to live in a place like that so every open house is more empty than a donut hole. The floor is clean now, but always red. Here’s 3857 Wester Drive. It’s red brick and has a red door. It’s the house where the decapitated head arrived. See Bobo lick the floor. See Mother, Father, and Jane remember the day the decapitated head was sent to them.

Peeling Onions

There’s the story; then there are the stories.

In 221 B.C.E., or there about, Qin Shi Huang united the then very sparse and warring kingdoms of the Far East. Qin led the unification of what would later be hailed The People’s Republic of China. Qin did that. He became China’s first Emperor. That was the Qin dynasty.

I ask Johnny, our guide at the Terracotta Army Museum, if Xi’an is cold in the winter. It’s September and over 35°C outside. Inside, the clay warriors are dressed for real winter: heavy boots, long and stiff garments, scarves tied tight at the neck.

“Back then there were less people,” Johnny says, “so it was much colder, and the rivers were much wider. Now they are small.” Johnny is quick to respond to my questions. He’s an expert on Xi’an, a guide for over ten years. His feet are just as fast as his responses. I have a hard time keeping up with him, which has been my experience in China in general. China’s like New York City on Methamphetamine. I kind of love it.

When I ask Johnny why there are no women warriors, he sort of grins and cups his hands over his mouth, like he’s got a secret to tell, but then blurts, “At that time, you know, the woman is a slave. You could have many wives. Qin had more than 3,000 concubines.” There are terracotta horses and carriages and warriors and commanders and generals, but no terracotta women. That’s the story.

Thursday marked the 70th anniversary of the Victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression. On a television outside a megamall on North Street, just by the Bell and Drum Towers in Xi’an, I watched the victory parade for a few minutes with a gathering of other passersby. There’s a three-car procession down the center of Beijing, passing Tiananmen Square and the large portrait of Mao Zedong at the front of the Forbidden City. Mao’s portrait is like sign language. President Xi Jinping stands, always stoically, out the roof of the front vehicle. His suited torso, carefully parted hair, and steady head stays still, almost like he’s a hologram. Or a clay statue. There are no people on the street. Only straight lines of tanks and tankers and missiles and more tanks and soldiers and crisp blue skies. Xi’an is grey. As the President’s car passes, he yells to the soldiers, only his lips move, and they reply on queue with shouts and sternness. It’s all in Mandarin. I only watch for a few minutes. This is not my parade.

Later that night I watch the Gala Event on CCTV 1. It’s a show. There’s another procession. This time there’s a very content, but composed Chinese crowd. Parading are foreign diplomats and state VIPs. I see Putin; he’s walking at the front with Jinping. I try to guess where the other delegates and diplomats come from. I see Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, maybe. I don’t see President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry. There are Chinese war vets: hunched and humble and smiling and wearing heavy, military green garb. Are they the modern day Terracotta Army? The diplomats shake hands on the way to their seats. They settle, and the theatrics begin. There’s dancing and singing and more dancing and singing. I think there might be more dancers than soldiers in China. I’m awestruck, really; the VMAs and the OSCARS and the GRAMMYS got nothing on this show. The most compelling part is the choreographed dance about the Rape of Nanjing. It’s a massacre: against all Chinese women, it appears. It’s intensely beautiful, but I don’t think about China or Japan. I think about humanity. Stories.

In 1974, a Chinese farmer, trying to dig a new well, struck the mighty, clay figures. He didn’t know what they were. He called his neighbors. They thought they must have been cursed. It must be bad luck. A few more calls. Government officials investigate. Archeologists bring their brushes and trowels and shovels. No, no, no, this is them: the mystical and mythical figures who were carved and kilned two millennia ago to commemorate and protect China’s first Emperor. Qin Shi Huang longed for immortality. The warriors face east, toward the rising sun, and are a part of Qin’s larger Mausoleum and tomb in the Lishan Mountains that faces the setting west. After the mighty Emperor’s death, his son was, “a stupid leader,” Johnny says. One dynasty ended, another began, and the Terracotta Army were forgotten, lost in history’s scrolls.

Today, the museum has three buildings. The first, and largest, is the size of two football fields and holds the most original and restored warriors. Each face is different. The torsos are hollow. Johnny says, “sometimes the artists are smart.” In the kiln, the hand-carved clay figures had to exude heat and fume or they would explode within the extreme temperatures: hence the hollow torsos. The heads were added later.

Johnny explains how the actual clay was brought to this part of the region. “Slaves carried it here from the south.” The women, I think. Today, archaeologists send the extra, crumbled clay to a factory to make replicas of the warriors. They deliver to America, if you want. Johnny says, “When President Clinton visited, he was offered a free one.” Clinton refused, saying he wanted to pay for it. I ask Johnny how much it would cost to buy a terracotta warrior. He said 10,000 RMB. About 1,500 US dollars. I cannot confirm President Clinton has one in his house, but Johnny is pretty certain he does. It might be at their front door. Maybe in the office. Stories.

I wonder about China, which is to say I wonder about my country: the United States of America. Original and restored and replicated. Stories. What about reenactments? What about retribution? What about the Trail of Tears and Tuskegee and Katrina? What about flags? Infamous stories. What do you do with the infamous stories? What about Donald Trump? That’s the best you can do, America? Donald Trump? Rich, white men jockeying for immortality. Stories: past, present, and future.

They all look the same, the Terracotta warriors. Today, I could have purchased an exact replica of a warrior made of the same clay, from the same land as the original warriors. I’ll take a woman warrior, please, on a horse, carrying a bow and arrow, shooting his story. How’s that for reenactment?

Peel stories, like onions.

On a Train

It’s 11:18 on Sunday morning, May 24, and I’m on the bullet train to Hangzhou. The train is mostly full, but, in our group, we are fourteen – twelve teenagers and two chaperones. It’s one of ISB’s Senior class End-of-Year trips, we’re traveling at about 310 kilometers per hour, and the word that keeps appearing in my mind is DERAILMENT.

Not, like, literal derailment. This train is smooth, clean, and comfortable. It’s just been a hectic few weeks. When I think, I see words. Literally. When I spell a word, a name, a phrase, or an idiom, and I see it there, written on my mind’s white board, I know it. DERAILMENT.

This past Tuesday I began my first course with UAA’s MFA program. I’ve been plowing through the required reading: The Best American Short Stories of 2014 and two works by Ron Carlson – A Kind of Flying and Ron Carlson Writes a Story. Carlson so easily and effortlessly captures voice in his short fiction. Reading inspires my own writing, and, after reading a little of Carlson, all I want to do is sit, type, and get stuck in story. I want to finish this piece that started with a playground. Now, it’s morphed into dementia, an affair, and physics, I think. Not sure where it’s going, but it’s going. All I want to do is finish, but I know it needs time. I need time to sit on it, let the characters marinate a bit more until the story’s juicy and ready to be either grilled or thrown in the freezer. I need time to type and then delete and then repeat until it feels real. Time, however, is not on my side at the moment.

Yesterday, a few friends and I went “busking” at 798, an artist district in Beijing. I had never heard of this term “busking” until I told another friend this past week what we were planning.

“Busking in 798,” she said. “Don’t get arrested.”

Apparently “busking” is a real term, and even though we didn’t have a permit to play music on the street, we didn’t get arrested. It was a successful event, which means we drank a lot of beer in the sun, I jammed on my djembe with the rest of Dirty City until my hands were swollen from playing euphonic praises to the universe, and we had our picture taken with many, many ever-so-curious Chinese passersby. iPhones ablaze. We were run out of one location, but quickly found a few others, and found, too, some future gigs. Dirty City likes 798 and vice versa. It felt good, too, to escape Shunyi – the Beijing suburbs – and play for an audience outside of our typical teacher-expat crowd.

Friday night there was more music. I sat in with the bits and pieces of a few local expat bands – past and present – to honor and celebrate folks finally saying good-bye to Beijing. We played well past my bedtime, but it was fun, again, to jam and chill with friends.

We’ve just passed through Nanjing, and once we hit the countryside it doesn’t feel like China. To me, China feels like a dream I always had growing up: it’s the beginning of some super-important bball game, I’m starting point guard, but I’m stuck in slow motion, while everyone else is at normal, human pace. I’m excited to be there in the moment, but I can’t catch up. I’m nervous. I’m confused. I’m lost. I’m frustrated. That’s what China feels like to me: at least the mega-city China. Watching the mountains and rice paddies and farms and clearing blue skies of the countryside doesn’t feel like that. I feel like I can breathe out here. It’s slowing down a bit.

One of the first official assignments of CWLA A662 was to submit a short bio and picture to the course discussion board on UAA’s Blackboard. It was one of those on-line thing-a-ma-bobbers, though, that won’t let you read what others have written until you actually submit. I needed some Jedi Knight trickery. What do I write? I don’t want to write too much and sound all over-anxious or dweeby, but then I don’t want to write too little and sound aloof. It took me an hour or more and I ended up rambling about Run the Jewels 2, James Baldwin, Africa, and our dog Bear. I submitted a picture – a selfie, in true Chinese fashion – of Jazzy and I outside Rome’s Colosseum, where she recently finished a marathon in 4 hours. I read the other bios. I’m nervous. DERAILMENT.

I haven’t had consistent physiotherapy time for my knee the last few weeks, but I’ve gotten into a good routine: light swimming, spinning a few times a week, push-ups and sit-ups and pull-ups. It seems like forever ago when I had a physical derailment, but I’m getting back on track. Knees are no joke.

The “real” writing I’ve been doing lately is a graduation speech for next week’s commencement ceremony. I’m cool with the writing part; it’s the actual speaking that worries me a bit. The delivery. Classroom speaking is easy, but addressing a crowd of, like, adults and stuff, all dressed up. DERAILMENT. I reckon, though, the universe will provide. The Big Man upstairs will have my back.

My first impression of Hangzhou is holy humidity. It’s not sweat-through-my-shirt humid, but I can tell, tomorrow, I’ll feel it. It is a nice change from Beijing where it’s always dry and the palms of my hands are always ashy. We arrive at 1:30 p.m., and I assign each kid a different task. D____ will find subway line number 1 and figure out how many stops to our hotel. W____ will purchase the subway tickets and make sure we get the proper fapiao (receipts) to submit to our school. The fapiao is a big deal, and I imagine the China paper trail must be longer than The Great Wall. I’ve tasked S____ to use her 4G iPhone to find walking directions from the subway stop to our hotel. It all works.

Later, we meet in the hotel lobby at 6 p.m. and then walk to Hefang Street. The teenagers lead and I follow. They flip-flop through the touristy street that’s got trinkets and more trinkets. This could be called Trinket Street. J____, S____, and K____ get matching temporary tattoos on their feet. It’s that type of street. A few others buy durian fruit candy that smells real bad, but they swear it’s tasty once you bite into it. I tell them I’ll try one tomorrow. In between Silk World and some type of green tea specialty shop, there’s a haunted house. It’s 20 RMB (about US$3.50) to enter, and, outside, the guy selling tickets is yelling about how scary it is. He’d be an amazing carnie. I tell the kids they should try it, but then S____ says, “but, Mr. P, we can’t get a fapiao for that.” She’s probably right.

At dinner, they talk about what teenagers talk about. They gossip about last night’s prom. Who did what and why. I pretend not to hear. Or, maybe I pretend not to listen, because I don’t want those stories. I already lived those stories.

We get back to the hotel at 10:18 p.m. I call Jazzy and ask her how Bear’s doing because he threw up this morning before I left. I tell her I miss her and love her and that I’ll message her before I go to sleep. I love yous and stuff.

Tomorrow, I’ll check back in with CWLA A662 and UAA’s finicky Blackboard. I’m sure my next assignment will be posted. I think about my playground-dementia-affair-physicist short story, but there’s no way I can touch that now. Less is more. Before I close my eyelids for the night, I’ll try to read more Carlson. SLEEP has replaced DERAILMENT for now. I’m happy, though, to be off one train at the moment. I’m just on a little layover, waiting for the next one.

Buzzer Beater

Monty Python showed Greece upset Germany in the Philosophers’ Football Match of 1972. It’s a must see. Google it. Now. I won’t spoil it, but there’s some late game action that’s spectacular…and heady. If the world’s philosophers favored football, I’ll wager the basketball gods must be poets at heart. Or maybe all great poets reincarnate to be great basketball players. Who’s your top five?

I got Walt Whitman at point guard: a visionary, stoic and firm, wise. At the 2-3 (shooting guard-small forward positions), I’ll take Langston Hughes and Dylan Thomas. Talk about a force to be reckoned with. Hughes, so versatile and smooth (“Mother to Son”, “Theme for English B”, “Harlem [Dream Deferred]”), will break many-a-ankle while scoring with ease, and Thomas, so cold and true with his words, will hit a jumper in your face while reciting, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” son! At the 4-5 (power forward-center positions), I got Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. Honestly, who wants to drive to the paint against “A Coffin—is a Small Domain” and “Lady Lazarus”? If we stretch this to an 8-poet team, I’ll take Ginsberg as my sixth man, because I’m sure he’s good for about 17 points and at least 3 steals off the bench. Seventh and eighth man, but just as valuable, I got Maya Angelou and Miguel de Unamuno. Finally, my pick for Player-Coach: Lao-Tzu.

I write, but I’m no poet. I’m into prose, but prose writers are more like long distance runners or swimmers, and that’s not all that entertaining to watch. Poets have style, poise, and natural swagger. A few weeks ago, a good friend and colleague of mine made a profound comment about, as he put it, “the dynamic character that is basketball.” Darren’s a broad shouldered Aussie who looks more like a rugby chap, but he’s a baller. A 3-4 forward. He was making his end-of-season speech about his Junior Varsity Girls’ bball team at our school sports award night. Darren spoke first for a bit about how the girls had improved both individually and as a team – typical end-of-season talk – but then he took a turn for the tangential. He said that to really understand basketball, to know basketball, you have to walk it, talk it, and live it. He said there’s a flow to the game that morphs into your day-to-day: the way you actually walk and talk – your voice, tone, pace, rhythm, volume. The way you actually interact with the world. I got chills. I looked around the room and wondered if anyone was feeling like me. My boy Darren nailed it. Basketball is a game, sure, but great basketball, like great poetry, is fluid and graceful, purposeful and adventurous, fundamentally simple, but also layered with intricacies. Style, poise, and natural swagger.

Growing up along Tobacco Road in the late 80s and early 90s, every day I was shooting hoops on my raggedy but cozy cold-a-sac court, challenging my cousin at one-on-one, playing catch-and-shoot with my mom, rehearsing crossovers under a dimly-lit street light, preparing for that last second shot or that behind-the-back pass or that celebratory fist pump. My friends and I were living and breathing hoops in the middle of the Golden Era of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.

Each week from December until March there were three or four games that would keep me up well past my bed time, and the next morning I was reading the stat lines and coaches’ quotes in Raleigh’s The N&O. There was Horace Grant and Dale Davis, Danny Ferry and Alaa Abdelnaby, Dennis Scott and Kenny Anderson, Rodney Rogers, Grant Hill, Vinny Del Negro, J.R. Reid, Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner, King Rice, and Walt Williams. Dave Odom, Dean Smith, Terry Holland, Gary Williams, Coach K, and Cliff Ellis. The greats. They were living legends. The league was ripe with brilliant players, huge personalities, inspiring coaches, unbelievable games and moments. Rhythm and flow.

My 9-year old self was convinced that every point mattered, and while my mom never condoned pulling for Duke or Carolina ever, when the two played you’d pull for Duke, because you lived by your ABCs – Anybody But Carolina. You see, my mom’s house is built with red brick, and everyone who lives under the roof bleeds red. Wolfpack red. Jimmy V red, baby! Tommy Burleson, Monte Towe, David Thompson-touch-the-top-of-the-backboard red. Dereck Whittenberg to Lorenzo Charles alley-oop dunk red. Fire and Ice – Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe – red. Anything else was sacrilege.

The ACC has since changed – as has college basketball – and maybe it’s lost some of its greatness. The level of athleticism seems higher, but then kids leave early with unrealistic NBA dreams. Conferences move and shift more than bandwagon fans. Players more concerned about posturing – too much Swaggy P syndrome. I’ll take a hustling Wojo over a flashy Tyus Jones any day. The poetry has changed. Perhaps I’m a bit of an ACC purist, but these days there’s, like, twenty teams in the conference, and in 2017 the ACC tourney will move to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn?

What does Brooklyn know about the ACC?

Keep it on Tobacco Road, please.

Great poets move the masses, start revolutions, and challenge mortals to consider something more. Sure, maybe the great poets couldn’t care less about hoops, but one can wonder. The game, too, teaches and challenges and moves. There’s growth and failure and learning and inspiration. Rhythm and flow. I moved away to college and then kept moving further and further away from my Wolfpack red roots. Since, I’ve fallen hard for literature, and now, I watch way more NBA than NCAA. It’s just better, more rhythmic, more transcendent basketball. I’m hopeful though. There are poets out there ready to play. I’m proudly a product of the Golden Era of ACC bball (even though my real playing days never went past high school hoops). The game has taught me as much as great literature has, and, in my world, they have to go together. Bball and poetry, bball and lit. This is the best time of year for fans. March Madness spills into the NBA playoffs. My boy Darren got it right: hoops, like poetry, affects how we interact with the world. It’s March Madness, baby. Pray to the bball gods for greatness and in between games, read some poetry. Who’s your top five?