by Jack Bedell
“He moves like a human now. He did move like a cat.”
I have a picture I bring with me to class
whenever I talk about what the lyric can do
even outside the world of time, how
it carries story, holds movement, seals
histories in one click.
The picture was taken
at Shea Stadium the year I was born.
In it, Namath has found his way to the edge
and has leapt to release a jump pass. The ball
is already out of his hand, spiraling
toward Don Maynard running the nine
forty yards up the right sideline.
The field at Shea is nothing but dirt, and a fog
of dust settles at the players’ waists.
Namath is already coming down, but his feet
are still inches above that dust. On one good knee
he’s three feet off the ground, not so much floating
as uncoiling toward the turf. Somewhere in the mess
the doctors made of his other knee, that cat
Coach Bryant talked about is clearly living
its other lives.
The photo cannot tell us
Namath won that game 52-13,
the score a simple fact for history
to bear, nor can it explain why
my family would travel to Houston years later
to watch this man stand on the sidelines, injured,
wearing a knee-length fur coat, my mother
following his every move with binoculars.
But somewhere in this single frame, each second
between then and now clears its throat
to begin a story of its own.