What could we do with victory but what she has done? -- an ode to Maya Moore

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Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore handles the ball against Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks during a WNBA basketball game at Staples Center.

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For Maya Moore 

Is there a better way to bless a body built by God 

     than to break it free from the single rib it sparked from 

          and give it wings? Hasn't she made us believe 

               what could happen If you surrender to the air? 

            That you could ride it?


We have faith in the wrist bone's connected

      to the hand bone, and the hip bone's connected

          to the thigh bone. What is the truth of a body

              shaped from six feet of lightning strike?

What do we know about grace in the body?

    Part amazing. Part thunder of mustangs and muscle

         across the battlefields of concrete,

               of hardwood, of love.


Who knows defeat more intimately than its champion,

       its humble deliverer who sets the feast on the table,

               a copper apple in an animal's mouth,

                  for the guests to eat and be filled on?


What could we do with victory but what she 

   has already done--build a temple of it

     and bring us to our knees within it hymning,

    I've got the victory, the sweet, sweet victory?


Yet there is no victory that is not also half surrender.

    Who told you it is easy to drive the chariot

      holding a ball of orange moonlight in one hand,

          the shadowy weight of the reins in the other?


Did someone tell you it isn't divine work and toil

     to make it rain night after night, jumper after layup

          after jumper, after jumper, after?


Herakles was not the only one who labored

to escape the labyrinth of the mind, to slay

its minotaur of doubt. Yes,

the construction of confidence is also an art.


How else to honor her mother hammering a hoop

above the door, than to take The Game like a breath

into her body and be changed by it? Breathe it out,

and let it go as something more beautiful-- 


as war cry, as gospel, as life.


How else is the body meant to move

if not like how it moved when it first became itself

in paradise--like joy? Like her?


When she moves in a rush over what cannot stop her--

like a river--and changes even the stone,

even the rock, then shouldn't we say,

She moves like water?


Can anyone love The Game? Better than she has?

And if you should ever have the luck to run out

from a tunnel into the coliseum with number 23

as the armor of your heart, what would you fear?


Because behind that number, 23, she has built a house

of triumph and humility from the hustle and sweat

of her body. How long could you dwell

in that house of champions? As she has--

Forty minutes? Ninety games?

For a season? Forever?


Natalie Diaz is the author of When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). She played Division I basketball at Old Dominion University, where she reached the final four her freshman year, and professionally in Europe and Asia. Diaz currently teaches at Arizona State University.

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