Ex-Basketball Player by John Updike . Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot, Bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off Before it has a chance to go two blocks, At Colonel McComsky Plaza. Berth’s Garage Is on the corner facing west, and there,
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Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot,
Bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off
Before it has a chance to go two blocks,
At Colonel McComsky Plaza. Berth’s Garage
Is on the corner facing west, and there,
Most days, you'll find Flick Webb, who helps Berth out.
Flick stands tall among the idiot pumps—
Five on a side, the old bubble-head style,
Their rubber elbows hanging loose and low.
One’s nostrils are two S’s, and his eyes
An E and O. And one is squat, without
A head at all—more of a football type.
Once Flick played for the high-school team, the Wizards.
He was good: in fact, the best. In ’46
He bucketed three hundred ninety points,
A county record still. The ball loved Flick.
I saw him rack up thirty-eight or forty
In one home game. His hands were like wild birds.
He never learned a trade, he just sells gas,
Checks oil, and changes flats. Once in a while,
As a gag, he dribbles an inner tube,
But most of us remember anyway.
His hands are fine and nervous on the lug wrench.
It makes no difference to the lug wrench, though.
Off work, he hangs around Mae’s Luncheonette.
Grease-gray and kind of coiled, he plays pinball,
Smokes those thin cigars, nurses lemon phosphates.
Flick seldom says a word to Mae, just nods
Beyond her face toward bright applauding tiers
Of Necco Wafers, Nibs, and Juju Beads.
Well, son, I'll tell you:Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.It's had tacks in it,And splinters,And boards torn up,And places with no carpet on the floor—Bare.But all the time I'se been a-climbin' on,And reachin' landin's,And turnin' corners,And sometimes goin' in the darkWhere there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.Don't you set down on the steps.'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.Don't you fall now—For I'se still goin', honey,I'se still climbin',And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
The whiskey on your breathCould make a small boy dizzy;But I hung on like death:Such waltzing was not easy.
We romped until the pansSlid from the kitchen shelf;My mother's countenanceCould not unfrown itself.
The hand that held my wristWas battered on one knuckle;At every step you missedMy right ear scraped a buckle.
You beat time on my headWith a palm caked hard by dirt,Then waltzed me off to bedStill clinging to your shirt.
I've known rivers:I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.My soul has grown deep like the rivers.I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.I've known rivers:Ancient, dusky rivers.My soul has grown deep like the rivers.