When the ball is under your breath
it is easy to underestimate the necessity for calm reason:
your hand must be held still
your sweat must be abated.
You have mere moments to think
to decide the course of events,
and only one chance to get it right because indecision makes meatballs
smashed back in your the face enough to leave a mark.
I walk to the table to face my opponent
I bring the ball up to my mouth
I impart my breath:
to clean it of any dust I lend it my spirit wind.
My hand drops, and bumping the table
it settles just above and behind the line,
palm up ball resting solitaire in the bowl that is my hand.
Body tenses then relaxes, my exhale a single soft stroke from my lungs that calms the nerves.
I gently, quickly toss the white celluloid six inches into the air,
racket smacks and sends it flying
a low line drive down the line
my anti delivering it dead ball flat.
Ball rebounds this time a baby faced blooper
to my forehand, and confidence now weighing heavy:
to remember his spin,
to remember how his rubber imparts its own special stamp.
I bring my racket low
my body crouches as I spring into motion.
My hand arcs up through the ball
as body turns with left arm's new come flight.
This ball driven hard a smash to his backhand
fast and low, spinning away to the far reaches of his flailing reach.
At a points end, he reflects now on the the essential nature of foot work.