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Poem for  Dukes – a Court Rhyme

He was the first always to arrive –
(Sometimes he would get up at five) –
And he’d duck-walk around the court,
Getting in shape for his  sport:

The only sport he truly played with passion.
In high school he lettered in football, more fashion
Than true love.  Tennis made him exultant  & furious
At once.  Barnet was the Tennis Czar , and nothing spurious

Got by him. Nothing  but a serve or two got  by Dukes --
I watched him rehearse as an actor, then  despite flukes,
He applied the same technique of practice to the game –
He repeated over and over the  altered  but same –

Baseline volley, twist serve, backhand underspin
Continental grip. And even the hopper  couldn’t win
Against his fierce, dogged , self-deprecating campaign –
He shouted at himself and cursed a  long refain

Of  guttural sounds  meant to self-reject.
“Love” means “nothing”  in tennis – yet
Love meant something to him.  Loyal friend
Of  all the players, the guys, the Club.,  the  end

And the beginning of  the Tennis Day.   He
Loved the comraderie, the  rigorous yet free
Flight of the  ball  shot from  the racquet.  One set
Followed by another.  I can’t remember what  “let”

Means in tennis.  But “let” us think of him now,
Handsome, nutty, furious – crouched in a half-bow --
Agile, dark-haired, laughing,  wearing his old
Knee-brace – Let not that memory grow cold –

Let him stay before our eyes: David Coleman Dukes –
A player with so much heart it   simply refutes
What is real -- to think he’s gone from us.
He’s not.  He’s here today, lifting his racquet,  big fuss –

Large memory – he sends “no fault” ,  he’s  a plus
 Unseen,--  but there where Love means something.
 He’s there. 

 With love,
Carol Muske-Dukes

Barnett Kellman Reads





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