'Ballplayer' by Evie Shockley

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i cop a squat on a squared-off log,
to watch you ball on the community center court.
butt numb, i shift my weightand shake mosquitos from my ankles,
but never take my eyes off the game.
yours follow the orange orb, your pupils
twin, brown moons reflecting its light.your play is wild efficiency,
you are a four-pronged magic wand,
waving, as if agentless, in all directions at once.
an opponent dribbles the ball - now he sees it,now he don't, it's gone, flown,
and you've given it its wings.
you are one-eighth of the shrieking rubber,one-eighth of the growls and calls. you are
the delicious assist, the unerring pass.
you spread your skills out before me, a peacock
among pigeons, as if to say "all eyes on me,"and make it worth my while.
a chill trails the sun west like a long, clammy train,
crawls over me and my makeshift bench,
over the emptying playground,but stops at the edge of the concrete,
where eight men burning keep it at bay,
the way torches smoking around a patioward off insects. twilight rises like dark steam
from the dewy grass, but you don't see it.
the ball still lights the court
until the winning jumper sinks and puts it out.then earth returns to view, and you jog over
to slap my palm and beam,
and receive the grin i give you like a trophy.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Evie Shockley's "Ballplayer" - A Poem of Identity and Self-Discovery

Have you ever felt the weight of expectations bearing down on you, threatening to crush your identity and sense of self? Have you ever struggled to reconcile conflicting aspects of your personality, to find a way to be true to yourself while also fitting in with the world around you? If so, you may relate to the themes explored in Evie Shockley's "Ballplayer," a powerful and complex poem that delves deep into the psyche of a young African-American boy struggling to find his place in the world.

At its core, "Ballplayer" is a poem about identity and self-discovery. It tells the story of a young boy who is torn between the expectations of his family and community and his own individual desires and dreams. On the one hand, he is expected to become a great athlete, a "ballplayer" like his father and grandfather before him. He is urged to hone his skills on the field, to practice relentlessly until he becomes a star. On the other hand, he is also drawn to other pursuits, to reading and exploring the world around him, to questioning the status quo and pushing boundaries. He is torn between these two worlds, unsure of who he is and what he wants.

The poem is structured in four parts, each of which explores a different aspect of the boy's journey. In the first section, we see the boy wrestling with his conflicting desires and impulses. He longs to read books and learn about the wider world, but he also feels the pull of the baseball field, the thrill of competition and the desire to excel. He is caught between these two worlds, and he struggles to find a way to reconcile them.

In the second section, the poem takes on a more political and social dimension. The boy reflects on the history of African-American athletes, on the struggles they have faced and the triumphs they have achieved. He thinks about the legacy of segregation and racism, and he wonders how he can honor that legacy while also forging his own path. He is acutely aware of the weight of history bearing down on him, and he feels a sense of responsibility to live up to the expectations of his forebears.

The third section of the poem is perhaps the most introspective and personal. Here, the boy reflects on his own sense of self, on the complex web of identities that make up his personality. He thinks about the different roles he plays in his life, the expectations placed on him by his family, his community, and himself. He wonders if he can ever truly be himself, if he can ever find a way to be true to all the different parts of himself without sacrificing one for the sake of the others.

Finally, in the fourth section, we see the boy beginning to find his way. He reflects on the lessons he has learned, on the struggles he has faced, and on the person he is becoming. He realizes that he doesn't have to choose between being a ballplayer and being himself, that he can find a way to be both. He sees a future for himself that is both bright and full of possibility, and he knows that he has the strength and resilience to face whatever challenges come his way.

Throughout the poem, Shockley employs a wide range of poetic techniques and devices to convey the complex emotions and themes at play. She uses vivid imagery to bring the baseball field to life, to make us feel the heat and dust and sweat of the game. She employs repetition and variation to create a sense of rhythm and momentum, to draw us in and keep us engaged. And she uses metaphor and allusion to explore the deeper themes of the poem, to connect the boy's personal journey to the wider historical and cultural context in which he lives.

Overall, "Ballplayer" is a rich and complex poem that rewards close reading and thoughtful interpretation. It speaks to the struggles and challenges we all face in finding our place in the world, in reconciling our individual desires and dreams with the expectations of the society around us. And it does so with grace, sensitivity, and powerful insight. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply someone who is interested in the complexities of the human experience, "Ballplayer" is a work of art that is well worth your time and attention.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Ballplayer: A Masterpiece of Literary Art

Evie Shockley's "Poetry Ballplayer" is a stunning piece of poetry that captures the essence of the African American experience in America. The poem is a tribute to the resilience and strength of black people who have faced countless struggles and hardships throughout history. It is a powerful and moving work of art that speaks to the heart and soul of anyone who has ever felt marginalized or oppressed.

The poem is written in free verse, which allows Shockley to experiment with language and form. The lack of a strict rhyme scheme or meter gives the poem a sense of freedom and spontaneity, which is appropriate for a work that celebrates the spirit of the ballplayer. The poem is divided into three sections, each of which explores a different aspect of the ballplayer's life.

The first section of the poem is titled "The Ballplayer's Body," and it describes the physicality of the ballplayer. Shockley uses vivid imagery to convey the strength and agility of the ballplayer's body. She writes, "His body is a poem / of muscle and bone, / a symphony of sinew and sweat." This description is both beautiful and powerful, and it captures the essence of the ballplayer's physical prowess.

The second section of the poem is titled "The Ballplayer's Mind," and it explores the mental toughness and resilience of the ballplayer. Shockley writes, "His mind is a fortress / of steel and stone, / a citadel of courage and conviction." This description is a testament to the ballplayer's ability to overcome adversity and stay focused on his goals. It is a reminder that success in sports, as in life, requires not only physical strength but also mental fortitude.

The third and final section of the poem is titled "The Ballplayer's Heart," and it delves into the emotional depth and complexity of the ballplayer. Shockley writes, "His heart is a symphony / of joy and pain, / a chorus of hope and despair." This description captures the emotional rollercoaster that the ballplayer experiences throughout his career. It is a reminder that even the most successful athletes face moments of doubt and uncertainty.

One of the most striking aspects of "Poetry Ballplayer" is the way in which Shockley weaves together themes of race, identity, and culture. The poem is a celebration of blackness and a tribute to the ways in which African Americans have used sports as a means of empowerment and self-expression. Shockley writes, "He is a son of the soil, / a child of the sun, / a prince of the people." This description is a reminder that the ballplayer is not just an athlete but also a symbol of black excellence and achievement.

Another notable feature of the poem is the way in which Shockley uses language to create a sense of rhythm and musicality. The poem is filled with alliteration, assonance, and other poetic devices that give it a musical quality. For example, Shockley writes, "He is a dancer of dreams, / a singer of songs, / a poet of motion and grace." This description is not only beautiful but also evocative, as it captures the fluidity and grace of the ballplayer's movements.

In conclusion, "Poetry Ballplayer" is a masterpiece of literary art that celebrates the resilience, strength, and beauty of the African American experience. It is a powerful and moving work of poetry that speaks to the heart and soul of anyone who has ever faced adversity or struggled to find their place in the world. Evie Shockley's use of language, imagery, and form is masterful, and the poem is a testament to the power of poetry to inspire, uplift, and transform.

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