Anyone for tennis?

I know I have watched far too much tennis this past week. It has been unbelievably good to watch the US Open produce so many wonderful games and so many surprises. It has been a week for the 18 year olds! So today I pulled off my shelf Robert Pinsky -New and Collected Poems 1966-1996. I have no memory where or even why I bought the book from some used book store, and to my surprise today, I noticed he had signed this copy! Elsewhere he has spoken of poetry “as a vital part of our intelligence, our ability to learn, our ability to remember, the relationship between our bodies and minds,” he told the Christian Science Monitor. “Poetry’s highest purpose is to provide a unique sensation of coordination between the intelligence, emotions and the body. It’s one of the most fundamental pleasures a person can experience.”  Although he spent many years teaching at Boston University he also enjoyed tennis. So here are his instructions for tennis, in his poem Tennis. Take a moment to enjoy his words and as you follow his poem regard it as a good tennis lesson, if nothing else. For the full poem please use this link Because of space I can only use a short sample from two of the poem’s five sections. Anyone for tennis?

1. The Service
The nerve to make a high toss and the sense
Of when the ball is there; and then the nerve
To cock your arm back all the way, not rigid

But loose and ready all the way behind
So that the racket nearly or really touches
Your back far down; and all the time to see

The ball, the seams and letters on the ball
As it seems briefly at its highest point
To stop and hover — keeping these in mind

The swing itself is easy, forgetting cancer,
Or panic learning how to swim or walk,
Forgetting what the score is, names of plants,

III. Backhand
Here, panic may be a problem: in the clench
From back to jaw, in manic you may come
Too close, and struggling strike out with your arm,

Trying to make the arm do everything,
And failing as the legs and trunk resist.
All of your coinages, and your nerve, may fail…

What you need is the Uroborus, the serpent
Of energy and equilibrium,
Its tail between its jaw, the female circle

Which makes it easy: all is all, left
Reflects the right, and if you change the grip
To keep your hand and wrist behind the racket

You suddenly find the swing is just the same
As forehand, except you hit it more in front
Because your arm now hangs in front of you

And not behind. You simply change the grip
And with a circular motion from the shoulder,
Hips, ankles, and knees, you sweep the inverted swing. Robert Pinsky

After reading the above I am a little exhausted, so I had better sit down and watch a little tennis to finish off a wonderful week. Remember to take a moment to pause and ponder and offer a prayer.

Lord God
the psalmist wrote
“we are fearfully and wonderfully made”.
Today I marvel in the beauty of those words.
The human body can accomplish so much,
in strength or in weakness.
With physical ease or through unbelievalbe challenge
the human body can testify to the complexity and
incomprehensibility of creation.
Lord God,
to you I turn
with my praise and my prayer.
Today is a precious gift
help me to be mindful of all that is possible. Amen.

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