Poetry / Poets

Boys and Basketballs by Ally Malinenko

I hear them thumping up the street
the steady beat of the ball on the sidewalk.
I hear their chatter too.

I hear the names they call each other
like peacocks puffing out their feathers.
They talk about girls, a lot.
Men will tell you that they don’t talk about women.
They will say only women spend all their time thinking about the other sex.
But damn, boys sure do talk about girls.

Thump, thump, thump.

They are getting closer and the cat in the window is getting nervous.
I see her tail twitch.
She cranes her neck to see them. She wants to jump down but doesn’t.
I feel her anxiety.

I sigh. It’s always the same with the boys and basketballs.
They will see her. They always do.
I want to coax her out of the window but this one is hers to decide.

I lay back down with my book and my classical station
which I can no longer hear over the

Thump, thump, thump.

One tells the other his girl is a whore.
They all agree. There is cackling and the jostling of fake fighting.
This also happens all the time.
I think about the long summer ahead of me and how living near a park
doesn’t see so charming.

Thump, thump, thump.
There are many “yo’s”
as in, “yo check out that cat.”
and I think, here we go. I sit up a little to watch her
but not enough that they can see me.

“Hey cat, was up?”
“Look at those eyes, man, that’s freaky shit,”
they say. They say more stupid things like that.
The cat lets out a long meow, the kind that I know is meant to be a threat
but doesn’t come off that way. She doesn’t understand how silly she sounds.
They all start to laugh.

One of them throws a wad of paper at the screen causing my cat to pull back.
I sit up more.
I yell. I try to sound like a man so they will be scared.
I should know better.

They don’t even flinch.
There is silence
and then the

thump thump thump of the ball.
Then laughter. Tons of it.
Eventually they move on.

The cat jumps down and I call her over.
She curls up next to me on the couch.

I try to explain to her about picking her fights,
about choosing when to ignore it and when to stop. I explain to her about giving up.
She doesn’t answer. She is unfazed.
She just purrs, and then goes right to sleep.

I think about how lucky she is. To be able to forget it all. Safe and inside.
I go back to my book, wait for the sound of my husband coming home and
decide not to tell him about the boys and the basketball.


4 thoughts on “Boys and Basketballs by Ally Malinenko

  1. Ally Malinenko’s second book of poem Crashing to Earth is forthcoming from Tainted Coffee Press and her first novel for children, Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb was recently published by Antenna Books. She lives in the part of Brooklyn the tour buses don’t come to but was voted to have the best halal truck.

  2. Pingback: Poems and Philosophy | allymalinenko

  3. An ode to manhood that we as a gender could have done without but that doesn’t make it any less true. Your narrative has caught the essence of the generation and expressed it in language that suits. I was hooked from the two opening verses and quite happy to read through to the placid denouement. Lovely piece – well done.

    [there might be a typo in the last line of verse 6 – ‘see’]

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